In criminal law, kidnapping is the taking away or transportation of a person against that person's will, usually to hold the person in false imprisonment, a confinement without legal authority. This may be done for ransom or in furtherance of another crime, or in connection with a child custody dispute. When it is done with legal authority, it is often called arrest or imprisonment.
In some countries such as the United States a large number of child abductions arise after separation or divorce when one parent wishes to keep a child against the will of the other or against a court order. In these cases, some jurisdictions do not consider it kidnapping if the child, being competent, agrees.
United States[edit | edit source]
Law in the United States follows from English common law. Following the highly publicized 1932 Lindbergh kidnapping, Congress passed the Federal Kidnapping Act, which authorized the FBI to investigate kidnapping at a time when the Bureau was expanding in size and authority. The fact that a kidnapped victim may have been taken across state lines brings the crime within the ambit of federal criminal law.
Most states recognize different types of kidnapping and punish accordingly. E.g. New York bases its definition of first-degree kidnapping on the duration and purpose. There are several deterrents to kidnapping in the United States of America. Among these are:
- The extreme logistical challenges involved in successfully exchanging the money for the return of the victim without being apprehended or surveiled.
- Harsh punishment. Convicted kidnappers face lengthy prison terms. If a victim is brought across state lines, federal charges can be laid as well.
- Good cooperation and information sharing between law enforcement agencies, and tools for spreading information to the public (such as the AMBER Alert system).
In 2010 the United States was ranked sixth in the world for kidnapping for ransom, according to the available statistics (after Colombia, Italy, Lebanon, Peru, and the Philippines).
In 2009, Phoenix, Arizona reported over 300 cases of kidnapping, although subsequent investigation found that the Phoenix police falsified data "Phoenix Kidnappings: Uncovering the Truth".. If true, this would have been the highest rate of any US city and second in the world only ccto Mexico City. A rise in kidnappings in the southwestern United States in general has been attributed to misclassification by local police, lack of a unified standard, desire for Federal grants, or the Mexican Drug War.
One notorious failed example of kidnap for ransom was the 1976 Chowchilla bus kidnapping, in which 26 children were abducted with the intention of bringing in a $5 million ransom. The children and driver escaped from an underground van without the aid of law enforcement.
According to the department of justice kidnapping makes up 2% of all reported violent crimes against juveniles.
According to a 2003 Domestic Violence Report in Colorado, out of a survey of 189 incidents, most people (usually white females) are taken from their homes or residence by a present or former spouse or significant other. They are usually taken by force, not by weapon, and usually the victims are not injured when they are freed.