Recently, a man held a woman up at gunpoint, stole her vehicle, and kidnapped the woman’s two children. The man is the father of the children and now, police are saying the two girls are in extreme danger. The police are still looking for the man and are asking for the public’s help in locating him, although he is not to be approached.
The story has garnered a lot of attention in recent days but truthfully, parental kidnapping is quite common in Pennsylvania. While parental kidnapping is considered a violation of a child custody order, it can become much more serious than that. Parental kidnapping is a criminal offense in the Commonwealth and it has serious consequences for those convicted. Fortunately, there are defenses available.
Defining Parental Kidnapping in Pennsylvania
The Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes define parental kidnapping as knowingly or recklessly taking or enticing a child under the age of 18 from the custody of their parent, legal guardian, or lawful custodian when a person does not have the authority to do so. Whether a parent has the authority to take or entice a child will depend on the existing child custody order, and whether the taking was justified.
Penalties for Parental Kidnapping
Anyone accused of parental kidnapping will face civil and criminal penalties. Parental kidnapping is generally considered a third-degree felony, with those convicted facing between three to seven years in prison and a maximum $15,000 fine.
If the defendant was not a parent of the child and knew the taking would cause concern for the child’s safety, or the defendant acted without regard for causing alarm, they may face second-degree felony charges. When a parent takes their child, and they have an existing custody or visitation order, and they took the child for good cause and with good reason, a parent may be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor. Still, even this charge could result in one to two years in prison for those convicted.
Defenses to Parental Kidnapping
Charges of parental kidnapping should always be taken very seriously. The mere fact that a person is the parent of the child is not a defense if they do not have authority to take the child. Fortunately, there are other defenses available. The most commonly used in these cases are as follows:
- You have authority to take the child under the current child custody order
- You had reason to believe taking the child was necessary to protect them from danger
- The child was 14 years of age or older and you did not have criminal intent when taking the child
An Allentown criminal defense lawyer will review the facts of your case and determine which defense is most appropriate.
Call Our Criminal Defense Lawyer in Allentown Today
Parental kidnapping is a very serious offense in Pennsylvania and if you are facing charges, you need the help of an Allentown criminal defense attorney. At van der Veen, Hartshorn and Levin, our skilled attorneys can prepare the strong defense you need to give you the best chance of retaining your freedom. Call us now at (215) 486-0123 or fill out our online form to schedule a consultation.