Felony kidnapping is a serious offense that could put you behind bars for the rest of your life. Even if you only spend a few years in prison, a kidnapping conviction will follow you everywhere you go. Anytime someone does a background check on you, such as when you are applying for a job or trying to rent an apartment, they will see that conviction on your record.

It could affect your job prospects as well as where you can live.

Depending on the circumstances, a felony kidnapping conviction can be devastating. People will treat you differently once they know and it could scare off potential romantic partners as well. It is something that you don’t want lurking on your record.

The criminal court system is complex though, and the laws surrounding felony kidnapping can be confusing. This is why when you are facing a felony kidnapping charge, you want an attorney who has the experience and skill to get the job done and make sure you have the best outcome possible. You want someone you can trust who will go to bat for you and make sure that your rights are protected.

It isn’t easy dealing with a felony kidnapping charge hanging over your head. You want to put your case in the most capable hand possible. You want a New York criminal defense attorney who will get the job done.

You’ll find all that and more at The Litvak Law Firm.

Overview of Felony Kidnapping Offenses

At its core, kidnapping is the act of restraining a person and hiding them so that they cannot be found, holding them (often) against their will. Ransom is a typical key element in kidnapping, but there does not have to be a ransom demand for a person to be charged with kidnapping.

The kidnapper doesn’t need to take the victim far away. A person being held against their will by their next-door neighbor could be considered a kidnap victim.

The laws surrounding kidnapping can get very complex and a kidnapping charge is not always a cut and dry case.

For example, a couple in a romantic relationship breaks up. The man keeps trying to convince the woman, his ex-girlfriend, to come back to him and resume the relationship. She is resistant. One day she agrees to go to lunch with him. He picks her up, but instead of taking her to a diner to get lunch, he takes her to his father’s cabin some miles away where he refused to let her leave until she agrees to get back together with him. The man could be charged with kidnapping.

While it may seem like kidnapping is a straightforward offense, many nuances can bring in other charges or negate the kidnapping charge. Every case is unique. That is why anyone who has a kidnapping charge should get a criminal defense attorney immediately.

Kidnapping vs Abduction

Kidnapping and abduction are often used interchangeably. Both terms do refer to the unlawful detention or taking of one person by another person, but they do have different legal meanings under New York law (Penal Code § 135.20).

  • Abduction – Restraining a person with the intent to prevent that person’s liberation by either:
    • Holding or secreting them in a place where it isn’t likely that they will be found
    • Threatening to use or using deadly physical force
  • Kidnapping – One person abducts another and:
    • Intends to demand a third party to pay a ransom, to coerce them into refraining from engaging in a specific activity or conduct or compel them to engage in a specific activity or conduct.
    • Restrains or holds the abductee for more than 12 hours and has the intent to:
      • Sexually abuse, violate or inflict physical injury on the person
      • Commit a felony or advance the commission of a felony
      • Terrorize the abductee or a third party or person
      • Interfere with the performance of a political or governmental function

Often, in written laws, the term “abduction” will be used to describe the offense of kidnapping.

Federal Felony Kidnapping Offenses

The majority of kidnapping cases are prosecuted at the state level, but certain actions and situations can bring a kidnapping offense under federal jurisdiction.

18 U.S.C. § 1201 – Kidnapping is the federal law that governs the crime of kidnapping at the federal level:

(a)Whoever unlawfully seizes, confines, inveigles, decoys, kidnaps, abducts, or carries away and holds for ransom or reward or otherwise any person, except in the case of a minor by the parent thereof, when—

(1) the person is willfully transported in interstate or foreign commerce, regardless of whether the person was alive when transported across a state boundary, or the offender travels in interstate or foreign commerce or uses the mail or any means, facility, or instrumentality of interstate or foreign commerce in committing or in furtherance of the commission of the offense;

(2) any such act against the person is done within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States;

(3) any such act against the person is done within the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States as defined in section 46501 of title 49;

(4) the person is a foreign official, an internationally protected person, or an official guest as those terms are defined in section 1116(b) of this title; or

(5) the person is among those officers and employees described in section 1114 of this title and any such act against the person is done while the person is engaged in, or on account of, the performance of official duties,

shall be punished by imprisonment for any term of years or for life and, if the death of any person results, shall be punished by death or life imprisonment.

Regarding subsection (a)(1), the statute also states that if the victim is not released within 24 hours after being kidnapped, then it will be assumed that they have been “transported in interstate or foreign commerce.” This places the crime directly under federal jurisdiction, but it does leave the provision that other circumstances may also make it a federal crime before the 24-hour period ends.

Other times that kidnapping is brought under the jurisdiction of the federal government include:

  • When the kidnapper willfully transports the victim or the victim’s body across state lines or country borders
  • When the kidnapper (with or without the victim) travels across state boundaries in the commission of the crime of kidnapping, or they use certain instrumentalities of interstate commerce to commit the crime. These instrumentalities of interstate commerce include:
    • The mail
    • The U.S. banking system
    • The internet
    • Certain ships on the seas
    • Certain aircraft
    • Other facilities and methods that interact across state lines
  • When the victim of the kidnapping is a foreign or United States government official who is kidnapped while they are performing, or by virtue of their status as a government official.

Attempted kidnapping and conspiracy to kidnap are also considered to be forms of kidnapping under this statute.

Because of the serious nature of this crime, there is no statute of limitations for kidnapping at the federal level.

New York Felony Kidnapping Offenses

Under New York law, there is kidnapping in the first degree and kidnapping in the second degree.

New York Penal Law § 135.20 – Kidnapping in the Second Degree

  • A person is guilty of kidnapping in the second degree when they abduct another person

New York Penal Law § 135.25 – Kidnapping in the First Degree

  • A person is guilty of kidnapping in the first degree when they abduct another person and
    • The offender’s intent is to compel a third party or person to deliver or pay money or property as ransom, or to coerce a third party or person into engaging in a specific activity or conduct, or to force a third party or person into refraining from engaging in a specific activity or conduct, or
    • The offender restrains the victim for a period that exceeds twelve hours, and the offender has the intent to:
      • Inflict physical injury on the victim, violate the victim, or abuse the victim sexually, or
      • Advance or accomplish the commission of a felony, or
      • Terrorize the victim or a third party or person, or
      • Interfere with the performance of a political or governmental function, or
      • The victim dies during the commission of the abduction or before the victim is able to be returned or return to safety.
        • If the victim is younger than sixteen years old or is deemed an incompetent person at the time he or she was abducted, then death will be presumed if the parents, guardians, or other lawful custodians did not hear from the victim or see the victim after the abduction was terminated and before the trial, and they have not received any reliable information during that period to indicate that the victim is alive.
        • In cases where the victim is older than sixteen years old or is deemed a competent person, or in all other kidnapping cases, death will be presumed from the evidence that the victim has not visited or communicated with a person with whom they would have been extremely likely to do so if he or she was alive and free to make contact, but the person did not see or hear from the victim during that specified period and did not receive any reliable information that would persuasively indicate that the victim was alive.

The statute of limitation for the crime of kidnapping in New York in some cases, depending on the facts surrounding the case can be five years, but most of the time, there is no statute of limitations for kidnapping in New York.

Penalties for Federal Felony Kidnapping Offenders

Federal kidnapping penalties are very serious.

If two or more people attempt to kidnap a person or they conspire to kidnap a person, they will each face the same penalties as if they had acted alone.

  • Attempted felony kidnapping – Maximum 20 years in federal prison
  • Kidnapping – Maximum life in federal prison
  • Kidnapping where anyone dies as a result of the act – Maximum life in federal prison or the death penalty (the deceased does not have to be the victim)
  • Kidnapping where the victim is a child, and the kidnapper is not a close family member or relative – Maximum 20 years in federal prison

Penalties for Felony Kidnapping in New York

Under New York law, kidnapping is considered a violent felony. This means that even though you may not have any prior felony convictions, a kidnapping conviction will come with a mandatory prison sentence of 5 years.

Kidnapping in the Second Degree

  • Class B Felony
  • Maximum 25 years in prison (with or without a criminal record)
  • Minimum 5 years in prison (first offense)

Kidnapping in the First Degree

  • Class A-1 Felony
  • Maximum life in prison
  • Minimum 5 years in prison

Felony Kidnapping Defenses

Kidnapping cases tend to be very high profile, garnering public outrage that puts pressure on authorities to punish the alleged offender – often harshly. This puts the accused in a difficult position because they face an uphill battle to provide a viable defense against their charges. However, an experienced, skilled, aggressive criminal defense attorney can increase your odds of having a positive outcome.

Several defenses can be used for kidnapping charges:

  • The suspect has a reasonable belief that the alleged victim had given their consent to go with them (not an option if the alleged victim lacks the mental capacity to give consent, such as a child or person who is mentally disabled)
  • Mistaken identity
  • The accused was a relative of the alleged victim and the purpose of the abduction was for the accused to assume control of the alleged victim

If you have been charged with kidnapping in New York State or at the federal level, you are facing some very serious consequences. Trying to handle it on your own would almost certainly prove to be disastrous with dire consequences that could even put you on death row. You need a New York criminal defense attorney who is experienced in kidnapping cases and will work aggressively to represent you and protect your rights.

If you need a kidnapping criminal defense attorney, call the Litvak Law Firm today. Mr. Litvak will fight for you and see to it that you have the best possible outcome in your case. Call (718) 989-2908 for your free initial consultation. Don’t wait to see what happens, get the legal representation you need and deserve.