Child abduction has come to be a scary and very real possibility for many families in California. But not many people know the specifics behind the law, the penalties or defenses. And while it is important to prepare your children and keep them safe from abduction, it is also important to know the specific applicable sections of California Penal Code and consequences behind the law.
The applicable section of California law that applies to the crime of “child abduction” is Penal Code 278. The offense is also referred to as “child stealing” or “detainment or concealment of a child from legal custodian.”
According to the code, you violate this section of the code if: with malice you take a child away from his/her legal guardian when you have no right of custody over the child.
In order to have a “right of custody” over a child, you must:
- be the parent of the child and have not had your rights restricted or revoked by the court, or
- have received a court custody order.
“Child stealing” is also closely related to California’s kidnapping laws. However kidnapping is considered a crime against the kidnapped person. Unlike kidnapping, child abduction or child stealing is a crime against the parent of the abducted child.
It is important to note that child abduction does not require moving or transporting the child. The regulation requires only that you intend to detain or conceal the child from a legal custodian.
Penalties for Child Abduction:
Prosecutors may charge this offense as either a misdemeanor or a felony. A misdemeanor conviction gets the offender one year in a county jail and a maximum $1,000 fine. A felony conviction gets an offender up to four years in the California state prison and a maximum $10,000 fine. Convicted Offenders are also required to reimburse the victim and/or prosecuting agency for any reasonable costs they incurred for attempting to locate and return the child.
Defenses To Child Abduction:
Some of the most common defenses to child abduction are:
- offender has legal custody of the child,
- offender did not maliciously take the child or had good intentions,
- mistaken identity, and
- police have insufficient evidence to prove a crime was committed.
For more information about child abduction, contact the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, your local law enforcement or FBI office.
Any and all advice contained herein is intended only to assist parents and families with abduction of children. Nothing suggested in this article should substitute for common sense, police direction or other professional advice.
About The National Academy for Child Abduction Prevention Associates, LLC:
Founded in 2013 by Roy M. Doppelt, Esq., the National Academy for Child Abduction and Prevention Associates, LLC is an Academy of family law attorneys advocating prevention of child abduction through public education and professional collaboration. We believe that educating the public about kidnapping and its prevention is a paramount duty of attorneys who represent family law clients.