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The Consequences of Parental Kidnapping

Zachary McCready Oct. 20, 2021

In family law matters involving children, heightened emotions can overwhelm the judgment of the parents. Sometimes, a parent or family member may abscond with the child in the middle of a contentious custody dispute. According to the United States Department of Justice, more than 200,000 children become victims of family abduction each year. In such situations, a parent may be facing criminal charges and other devastating ramifications for parental kidnapping.

If you have been accused of abducting your own child, retaining a skilled California criminal defense attorney is crucial to understand the potential criminal consequences and help build your defense. At McCready Law Group, I'm committed to offering experienced legal guidance and vigorous representation to clients in complex criminal and family law cases, including parental kidnapping. I can investigate every detail of your case, enlighten you about the possible consequences, and outline an effective strategy to pursue a favorable outcome for your unique situation. My firm proudly serves clients across Long Beach, Lakewood, and Cypress Hill, California.

Parental Kidnapping

Parental kidnapping occurs when one parent absconds with their child without the other parent's consent (whether amidst a child custody dispute or not). Pursuant to California Penal Code 278 PC, "Every person, not having a right to custody, who maliciously takes, entices away, keeps, withholds, or conceals any child with the intent to detain or conceal that child from a lawful custodian…" is guilty of parental kidnapping or abduction.

Under California Penal Code 278.5 PC, a person is guilty of child abduction if her or she “takes, entices away, keeps, withholds, or conceals a child and maliciously deprives a lawful custodian of a right to custody, or a person of a right to visitation.”

Some common examples of actions viewed as parental kidnapping include:

  • A parent violates a custody arrangement and takes off with the child.

  • A divorced parent with no custody order takes the child to a secluded place without informing the other parent.

  • A relative takes a child to a faraway place in order to conceal him or her from the parents.

Depending on the circumstances surrounding the kidnapping, a parent may be facing misdemeanor or felony charges for kidnapping their child.

Misdemeanor vs. Felony

Furthermore, a violation of California parental kidnapping laws is known as a "wobbler." This means that the defendant could be charged with either a misdemeanor or a felony based on the surrounding elements of the case. To determine whether to charge you for a misdemeanor or a felony, the court may consider the following:

  • The circumstances of the parental kidnapping or abduction

  • The length or duration of the kidnapping or abduction

  • Your criminal history

  • Whether you exposed the child to a substantial risk of bodily injury or illness

  • Whether you inflicted or threatened to inflict physical harm on the parent

  • Whether you deprived the other parent's right to custody or visitation

A skilled California criminal defense attorney can review all of the facts of your case and determine your best defense strategy.

Possible Penalties

An experienced attorney can evaluate the surrounding facts of your case and help you understand the possible punishments and consequences of a conviction. If you are convicted of parental kidnapping in California, the possible penalties include:

  • Misdemeanor Parental Kidnapping: Punishable by up to one year in county jail, a maximum fine of $1,000, or both

  • Felony Parental Kidnapping: Punishable by probation, including up to one year in county jail, or two to four years in state prison and a maximum fine of $10,000

  • Parental Abduction as a Violation of a Custody Order: Punishable by up to 16 months, or two to three years in state prison and a maximum fine of $10,000

Additional Consequences:

  • Paying for restitution to the victim

  • Paying for the cost incurred from locating and returning the child to the other parent

  • Losing child custody or visitation rights

  • Possible deportation or inadmissible into the United States (if the defendant is not a U.S. citizen)

  • Losing gun rights (felony conviction)

How McCready Law Group Can Help

Trying to defend your parental kidnapping accusations without proper guidance could expose you to the risks of getting convicted and suffering maximum penalties. If convicted, you may be facing lengthy jail time, huge fines, loss of custody and visitation rights, and other devastating social ramifications. Therefore, it is imperative that you retain a highly skilled criminal defense attorney immediately to help protect your custody rights and outline an effective defense strategy.

At McCready Law Group, I have devoted my career to handling criminal cases and defending parents facing parental kidnapping charges. As your attorney, I can evaluate every aspect of your case, conduct an in-depth investigation, and strategize an effective defense for your unique situation.

Using my extensive experience and knowledgeable legal understanding, I will help you navigate the California criminal justice system, represent you in court, and guide you through every phase of the legal proceedings. I will fight vigorously to protect your custody rights and attempt to dispute the allegations against you with substantial evidence.

Contact my firm – McCready Law Group – today to schedule a simple case assessment with an experienced criminal defense attorney. I can offer you the comprehensive legal counsel, advocacy, and strong representation you need in your parental kidnapping case. My firm is proud to represent clients across Long Beach, Cypress Hill, and Lakewood, California.

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