California Kidnapping Laws

The crime of kidnapping describes the act of moving another person against that person's will. To establish the elements of set by California's kidnapping laws, a prosecutor must show that the defendant used physical force to take, carry, or otherwise move the victim. Alternatively, the defendant must have persuaded the victim to move due to intimidation or fear. The victim did not voluntarily agree to the move.

In addition, a prosecutor must prove that the defendant moved the victim for a substantial distance. The legal term for the move is "asportation." The prosecuting attorney might establish substantial distance for the crime of kidnapping by looking at the actual distance moved. The prosecutor might also present evidence regarding the defendant's decision to move the victim from a public place to a more secluded place.

In addition, the prosecutor might show that the defendant moved the victim from one place to another in order to avoid being caught or to ease the commission of the crime. California court decisions have presented varying opinions on the types of distances and circumstances that meet the asportation requirements for a kidnapping prosecution.

Overview of California Kidnapping Laws

The following chart outlines some general information about California kidnapping laws, including information about aggravated kidnapping, kidnapping defenses, and penalties for kidnapping convictions:

Statutes California Penal Code 207-210
Simple v. Aggravated Kidnapping

Simple kidnapping vs. aggravated kidnapping:

While both types of kidnapping include the basic elements of the crime, aggravated kidnapping requires proof that the defendant engaged in kidnapping for the purpose of committing another crime.

For example, someone might kidnap another person with a plan to commit robbery, extortion, or rape. To establish aggravated kidnapping, the prosecutor must show that defendant intended to commit the underlying crime while moving the victim. Aggravated kidnapping may result in a more severe punishment under California law.

Defenses
  • The victim consented to being moved or to accompanying the defendant
  • The defendant did not take sufficient action to move the victim
Penalties
  • A conviction for kidnapping carries a term of imprisonment for three, five, or eight years in state prison.
  • If the victim is a child younger than fourteen years old and the defendant is not a parent or another person with access rights granted by a court order, the term of imprisonment increases to five, eight, or eleven years.
  • If murder or another specified crime happens during a kidnapping, the prosecutor can charge the defendant with first degree murder using the felony-murder rule.
  • A murder conviction for homicide during a kidnapping can result in a sentence of life imprisonment without parole or the death penalty.
  • If the state approves the defendant's request for probation, California law requires a term of imprisonment in county jail for twelve months as a condition of probation.
  • If the court does not require probation, the court must explain the interests of justice that require a more lenient penalty.

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Related Resources:

Get a Free Case Review

Kidnapping and the crimes typically associated with kidnapping carry heavy potential penalties, including long jail sentences. The assistance of a qualified lawyer can make the difference between a successful defense and a long stretch in prison. Contact a local attorney and schedule a free initial case evaluation.

Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney

Contact a qualified attorney.