At its most basic, kidnapping is the act of abducting someone against their will and detaining them in another location without the freedom to leave. There are obviously several variables that go into it – the age of the victim, their relationship to the perpetrator, the presence of ransom demands – but they all ultimately boil down to the same crime.
The state of Georgia does have different degrees of kidnapping, such as first- and second-degree. However, it does differentiate punishment based on the facts of the case.
If the victim is over 14 years old and is not physically harmed, the punishment is 10 to 20 years imprisonment.
If the victim is under 14 years old, the punishment is 25 years to life, followed by lifetime probation. If the defendant has a prior conviction for a sexual felony and is not the parent of the child, then he or she would have to also wear an electronic monitor when released.
If the kidnapping was for ransom or if the victim received bodily injury, the sentence would be life in prison, or death if the victim was killed. The kidnapping statute still lists “death” as a potential punishment for ransom or bodily harm cases, but the Supreme Court ruled that the death penalty may only be imposed where the victim dies as a result.
Kidnapping vs. False Imprisonment
While the two concepts may seem similar, it’s important to note the crucial distinction that separates kidnapping from false imprisonment. That distinction is movement. In a kidnapping, the victim is taken against their will and transported to a second location, a legal process known as “asportation.” False imprisonment does not require moving the victim, simply holding them against their will.
Detaining someone without authority, confining them against their will or depriving them of their freedom of movement are all legally considered false imprisonment and punished accordingly. It does not necessarily require physical restraints such as handcuffs; merely proving an intention to hold a person without reasonable means of escape can be enough to prosecute.
There is one caveat to this distinction, and it occurs when the movement from one location to another is incidental to another crime being committed. While it will then be considered false imprisonment rather than kidnapping, there are several factors that determine whether the movement was truly incidental. For example, movement cannot be considered incidental if:
- It separates or conceals the victim from others
- Is done specifically to make separate crime easier
- Is done to avoid capture by authorities or reduce the odds of being apprehended
If the victim remains in their original location, or is only moved incidentally, the crime will be considered false imprisonment.
Is it Considered Kidnapping if it’s Your Child?
It depends. The state of Georgia also has a charge called “Interference with Custody” that may be more applicable, depending on the facts of the case. However, the mere fact that you are a parent of the child does not mean you cannot kidnap the child. You will need an experienced attorney to evaluate the facts of your case and determine whether kidnapping applies.
What are Some Possible Defenses?
Accusations of kidnapping do not necessarily mean guilt, and there are a wealth of factors that could play into any given situation that could show that there was a misunderstanding, a violation of legal rights or other extenuating circumstances involved. A few of these defenses include:
- Unintentional Kidnapping: The alleged act may have simply been a misunderstanding, with the perpetrator lacking the intent to commit kidnapping.
- Unreliable Witness: The victim may have falsely accused the defendant, or they may have granted their consent and gone with them willingly, only to later recant their story. They may even have identified the wrong person to law enforcement.
- Outside Coercion: The alleged kidnapper may have been forced to commit the act against their will by a third party who manipulated them or compelled them under threats of violence.
- Unlawful Arrest or Search: If the defendant’s constitutional rights were violated at any point in the process, from the initial investigation to the search and seizure and the arrest, certain evidence can be excluded from the trial, or the charges can be dismissed altogether.
The Busbee Law Group has an extraordinary track record of defending our clients in kidnapping and false imprisonment cases because we work harder than the prosecution to truly prepare. Before we ever step foot in the courtroom, we’ve already tracked down every shred of evidence that exists, interviewed every witness, and scoured through the photos, videos, reports and other documents surrounding the case. In short, we understand your case in a way that allows us to present a stronger position and defend it with confidence.
If you or someone you love is being investigated in connection with a kidnapping, submit your contact information below to schedule a no-obligation evaluation of your case at no cost to you.