Kidnapping is a criminal offense under state and federal law. It is defined as taking a person from one place to another against his or her will, or confining a person to a set location against his or her will. Kidnapping for the purpose of extortion, rape, ransom or robbery will likely result in aggravated kidnapping charges, which may mean increased penalties for the defendant.

The penalties for a kidnapping conviction, while they will vary from state to state, will likely include a county jail or state prison sentence, fines and other penalties. Federal investigators and prosecutors are likely to become involved if the alleged kidnapper takes the victim across state lines, or if the offender stands accused of kidnapping in more than one state. The FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) was initially authorized to investigate kidnapping cases after the famous 1932 kidnapping of the 20-month son of aviator Charles Lindberg.

Today, kidnapping for ransom is rarely committed in the U.S., though it is prevalent in other places of the world. The logistics of obtaining a ransom without being captured and/or identified as well as the harsh penalties that may be enforced make it a rare practice. Kidnapping for ransom may be punishable by life in prison. If the victim is killed during the course of the kidnapping, the defendant may face the death penalty.

Parental Kidnapping

A more common form of kidnapping in the U.S. involves parental kidnapping. The parent of a child may be charged with kidnapping when he or she is the non-custodial parent and takes the child without the consent of the custodial parent, in certain circumstances. The penalties for this form of kidnapping are typically significantly less than for kidnapping for ransom or for the purpose of committing sexual abuse.

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