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When Can You Be Charged with Child Abduction?

June 14, 2020

Child abduction may be charged when a noncustodial parent takes a child from the custodial parent.

When Can You Be Charged with Child Abduction?

Most of us are familiar with kidnapping, or at least the movie version of it: a bad person (or people) take a child. The bad person is usually a stranger. Yet the more common form of “kidnapping” is known as child abduction, and it usually involves people known to the child, such as a parent or other relative.

According to a criminal attorney in San Bernardino, CA, child abduction occurs when a person with no right of custody takes a child away from their legal guardian. This crime may be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the facts of the case and the defendant’s criminal history. As a misdemeanor, it is punishable by a jail term of up to 1 year. As a felony, it may result in a prison sentence of up to 4 years.

The crime of child abduction has four elements:

  • The defendant maliciously took or withheld a child from their lawful custodian;
  • The child was under the age of 18 at the time;
  • The defendant did not have a right to custody of the child when they acted; and
  • The defendant intended to detain or conceal the child from their lawful custodian.

To act maliciously means to do a wrongful act intentionally, or with the purpose of disturbing, defrauding, annoying, or injuring another purpose. For purposes of this law, a lawful custodian is a person that has a right to custody of a child, which includes both physical care and control of the child.

Importantly, it doesn’t matter if the child consented to going with the other person. It is considered a crime against the child’s lawful custodian — not the child. For example, consider a situation where 6 year old Maggie’s mom is her sole lawful custodian. Maggie’s uncle — who doesn’t have any custody rights to her — spots her playing outside and asks her if she wants to go to Disney. Maggie agrees (because it sounds like fun), and the uncle takes her, hiding her from her mom. Even though Maggie consented to going, her uncle has still committed a crime.

A related crime occurs when a person has some custody rights to a child, but illegally interferes with the other parent’s custody or visitation rights. This is known as child abduction by depriving custody or visitation.

Child abduction is a serious criminal offense. A criminal attorney in San Bernardino, CA can work with you to develop both factual and legal defenses to this charge. This may include proving that you had legal custody of the child in question or that the other party was not the child’s lawful custodian. Alternatively, you may be able to argue that you didn’t have malicious intent. In the example with Maggie above, if her uncle just thought he would take her out for a day of fun, and forgot to tell her mom, his lawyer may be able to argue that there was no malicious intent.

If you have been charged with a criminal offense, the Chambers Law Firm is here for you. Contact us today at 855-397-0210 or dchambers@clfca.com to schedule a free initial consultation with a criminal attorney in San Bernardino, CA.

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