In late April, neighbors were shocked to hear the story of a man that kidnapped a four-year-old girl and kept her in a wooden trunk in his grandparents’ home. The girl managed to escape and was okay, but the man now faces several charges, including kidnapping.
In Pennsylvania, kidnapping is considered one of the worst crimes a person could commit. In fact, the only crime considered worse is murder. As such, for those convicted it also carries some of the harshest penalties.
Kidnapping Charges in Pennsylvania
Kidnapping is covered under Pennsylvania’s Consolidated Statutes, Title 18, Chapter 29. This statute defines kidnapping as unlawfully moving a person a substantial distance from the place they were found. The statute does not specifically define a ‘substantial distance,’ but the courts will determine that on a case by case basis. Generally speaking, the substantial distance requirement is typically satisfied when the distance isolates the victim, or places them in danger of increased harm.
In addition, a judge or jury may find someone guilty of kidnapping if they isolate the victim for a substantial period of time. Again, the law does not define a substantial amount of time. It also does not require the victim to be alone during their isolation.
Elements the Prosecution Must Prove
Like anyone facing criminal charges, those accused of kidnapping are considered innocent until proven guilty. In order to prove someone is guilty of kidnapping, the prosecution must prove several things.
The first is that the defendant committed the act of kidnapping as defined by the statute. The accused must have taken someone a substantial distance, or isolated them for a substantial period of time. Once this is proven, the prosecution must also prove that someone was taken in order for the accused to:
- Collect a ransom or reward for the victim
- Assist with committing, or fleeing from, another felony
- Injuring or terrorizing the victim or another person
- Interfere with a political process or a function of the government
When the prosecution can prove all of these elements, those charged face serious penalties if convicted.
Penalties for Kidnapping
Kidnapping is considered a felony of the first degree in Pennsylvania. Those convicted of the charges face up to 20 years in state prison and a possible maximum fine of $25,000. In addition, regardless of the defendant’s financial position, the courts will also order them to pay restitution to the victim if they were injured at all during the kidnapping.
In addition to these penalties, those accused face other severe penalties if convicted. Once a person has a permanent criminal record, it is difficult for them to gain employment, housing, and even academic opportunities. For these reasons, a strong defense is critical in any kidnapping case.
We Are Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Lawyers that can Help
If you’ve been charged with kidnapping or any other crime, don’t leave your case to just anyone. Contact the experienced Allentown criminal defense attorney that can help. At van der Veen, Hartshorn and Levin, we can help you build a solid defense that will disprove the allegations of the prosecution in order to get your charges reduced or dropped altogether. Call us today at (215) 977-4627 or fill out our online form so we can begin reviewing your case.