|Author:||Jeffrey Lehman, Shirelle Phelps|
The crime of unlawfully seizing and carrying away a person by force or FRAUD, or seizing and detaining a person against his or her will with an intent to carry that person away at a later time.The law of kidnapping is difficult to define with precision because it varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Most state and federal kidnapping statutes define the term kidnapping vaguely, and courts fill in the details.Generally, kidnapping occurs when a person, without lawful authority, physically asports (i.e., moves) another person without that other person's consent, with the intent to use the abduction in connection with some other nefarious objective. Under the MODEL PENAL CODE (a set of exemplary criminal rules fashioned by the American Law Institute), kidnapping occurs when any person is unlawfully and non-consensually asported and held for certain purposes. These purposes include gaining a ransom or reward; facilitating the commission of a felony or a flight after the commission of a felony; terrorizing or inflicting bodily injury on the victim or a third person; and interfering with a governmental or political function (Model Penal Code § 212.1).Kidnapping laws in the United States derive from the COMMON LAW of kidnapping that was developed by courts in England. Originally, the crime of kidnapping was defined as the unlawful and non-consensual transportation of a person from one country to another. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, states began to redefine kidnapping, most notably eliminating the requirement of interstate transport.At the federal level, Congress passed the LINDBERGH ACT in 1932 to prohibit interstate kidnapping (48 Stat. 781 [codified at 18 U.S.C.A. §§ 1201 et seq.]). The Lindbergh Act was named for Charles A. Lindbergh, a celebrated aviator and Air Force colonel whose baby was kidnapped and killed in 1932. The act provides that if a victim is not released within 24 hours after being abducted, a court may presume that the victim was transported across state lines. This presumption may be rebutted with evidence to the contrary. Other federal kidnapping statutes prohibit kidnapping in U.S. territories, kidnapping on the high seas and in the air, and kidnapping of government officials (18 U.S.C.A. §§ 1201 et seq., 1751 et seq.).A person who is convicted of kidnapping is usually sentenced to prison for a certain number of years. In some states, and at the federal level, the term of imprisonment may be the remainder of the offender's natural life. In jurisdictions that authorize the death penalty, a kidnapper is charged with a capital offense if the kidnapping results in death. Kidnapping is so severely punished because it is a dreaded offense. It usually occurs in connection with another criminal offense, or underlying crime. It involves violent deprivation of liberty, and it requires a special criminal boldness. Furthermore, the act of moving a crime victim exposes the victim to risks above and beyond those that are inherent in the underlying crime.Most kidnapping statutes recognize different types and levels of kidnapping and assign punishment accordingly. New York State, for example, bases its definition of first-degree kidnapping on the purpose and length of the abduction. First-degree kidnapping occurs when a person abducts another person to obtain ransom (N.Y. Penal Code §...
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