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New York Kidnapping Laws

The crime of kidnapping is generally defined as the taking of a person against his or her will from location to another or confining that person to a controlled space. While kidnappings for ransom are more familiar to those who regularly watch crime dramas, the kidnapping of children by non-custodial parents is probably more common than ransom requests. But regardless of jurisdiction, it is charged as a very serious crime with stiff penalties. For instance, kidnapping is a serious felony under the federal criminal code and punishable by 20 or more years in prison.

New York Kidnapping Laws at a Glance

The New York Penal Law's definition of the crime of kidnapping is succinct: a person commits the offense when he "abducts another person." Additional details about New York kidnapping laws are listed in the table below.

Statute Penal Code Section 135.20, et seq. (kidnapping, coercion, and related offenses
Statutory Definition of Abduction A person abducts another person when he or she "restrains" that person with intent to prevent his or her liberation by either:
  • Secreting or holding the person in a place where he or she is not likely to be found, or
  • Using or threatening to use deadly physical force.
What it Means to "Restrain" To "restrain" a person means to "restrict a person's movements intentionally and unlawfully in such manner as to interfere substantially with his liberty by moving him from one place to another, or by confining him either in the place where the restriction commences or in a place to which he has been moved, without consent and with knowledge that the restriction is unlawful."
What it Means to "Confine without Consent"

A person is moved or confined "without consent" when the movement or confinement is accomplished by:

  • Physical force, intimidation or deception, or
  • Any means, including with the victim's consent, if the latter is a child less than sixteen years old or an incompetent person and the parent, guardian or other person legally responsible for him or her did not consent to the movement or confinement.
First-Degree Kidnapping (Aggravated Charge)

New York elevates commission of the crime to kidnapping in the first degree when a person abducts another person and:

  • Kidnaps with the intent to compel a third person to pay ransom, engage in other particular conduct, or refrain from engaging in particular conduct.
  • Restrains the abducted person for more than twelve hours with the intent to (a) inflict physical injury, violate or sexually abuse him or her; (b) commit or advance the commission of a felony; (c) terrorize him or her or a third person; or (d) interfere with the performance of a governmental or political function.
  • The abducted person dies during the abduction or before he or she is returned to safety.
Defenses to Kidnapping Charges
  • The defendant was a relative (a parent, ancestor, brother, sister, uncle or aunt) of the person abducted, and his or her sole purpose was to assume control of such person
  • Lack of intent to prevent the abducted person's liberation
  • Consent of abducted person or his or her parent or legal guardian
  • Infancy (for persons who commit kidnapping in the second degree who are less than 16 years old; and for persons who commit kidnapping in the first degree who are less than 14 years old)
  • Mental disease or defect

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.

Penalties and Sentences

In New York, kidnapping in the second degree is a class B violent felony. Persons convicted of a class B violent felony offense are subject to a sentence of mandatory imprisonment of between 5 to 25 years in prison. The court may also impose a fine which is the greater of $5,000 or "double the amount of the defendant's gain from commission of the crime."

Kidnapping in the first degree, the most serious level of the crime, is a class A-I felony. Such felonies are punishable by a sentence of mandatory imprisonment of a minimum term of between 15 to 25 years and a maximum term of life imprisonment; and an optional fine which is the greater of $5,000 or "double the amount of the defendant's gain from commission of the crime."

Most felonies, including kidnapping convictions, are subject to "indeterminate" sentences. For such sentences, the Penal Law requires that a court commit the defendant to the custody of the state department of corrections and community supervision for the term of his or her sentence and until his or her release.

New York Kidnapping Laws: Related Resources

Charged with Kidnapping? Get Free, Confidential Legal Help

Kidnapping charges are extremely serious and can land you in prison for a long time if convicted of the crime. It's important that you have legal representation if you find yourself charged with this serious crime. Get a free legal evaluation of your case from a New York criminal defense attorney.

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