When two parents are responsible, loving, and protective of their children, whether they are together as a couple or separated, it is reasonable to say having each person in the child’s life greatly benefits the child. For most parents, the thought of having their child abducted can be sickening and immensely upsetting. Typically, when one thinks of child abduction, one imagines a malicious type of stranger grabbing a child and running away. While this does happen, the majority of child abductions are perpetrated by parents.
As high as 78% of all missing children reports happen when one parent unlawfully takes their child. In these instances, it is generally a parent who has an established custody arrangement and fails to follow it. Out of all of these situations, the leading reason why parents who violate their child custody agreement do so is that they want the agreement to change or be modified. Then, for more than 20% of the missing child reports, it is not either parent that abducts the child but rather another family member like a grandparent.
What Happens When a Parent Unlawfully Takes Their Child in California?
The good news is, in many instances when a parent unlawfully takes their child, the child usually is not in danger and will likely be returned home without much fanfare.
If a parent acts in an egregious way by taking their child and fleeing the state, being unresponsive, and keeping the child in an unknown location for a long period of time, then they may be charged with parental kidnapping. Also, if one parent refuses to abide by child custody guidelines and denies the other parent access to their child, parental kidnapping charges may apply here too.
The criminal charges of parental kidnapping can be either a felony or a misdemeanor because this type of crime is what is considered a wobbler.
Misdemeanor parental kidnapping charges in California can come with punishments including:
- $1,000 fine
- One year in county jail
Felony parental kidnapping charges in California can come with punishments including:
- Three years or less in state prison
- $10,000 or less in fines
There are several aspects of a potential kidnapping case that a prosecutor will examine when it comes to determining the right charge to apply. The child’s safety and well-being are one of the top considerations. If there is any belief that the child was in danger at any time while they were with the parent who allegedly kidnapped them, it is highly likely that the prosecution will favor a felony charge over a misdemeanor. In this case, having a San Diego felony defense attorney is the best option for overcoming one’s charges.
Even if the crime is determined to be a misdemeanor, a conviction can result in the parent who kidnapped their child losing any unsupervised access they previously had to their child. Continue reading