Kidnapping vs Child Abduction: What's The Difference?

Kidnapping vs Child Abduction: What’s The Difference?

by Mar 4, 2021

While sometimes used interchangeably to describe the same crime, kidnapping and child abduction are two separate crimes. While both crimes are felonies, there’s a huge difference in how a lawyer will defend you depending on if you’ve been charged with child abduction versus kidnapping.

What Is Child Abduction?

In California, child abduction is defined as “maliciously taking or hiding a child with the intent to keep that child from his or her legal guardian.” Child abduction is a serious felony, and a prosecutor must prove the following in order for you to be convicted:

  • You took a child, hid, or persuaded a child to stay away from his or her legal guardian
  • You intended to take or hide the child from his or her legal guardian
  • You did not have legal custody of that child

The most common defense to charges of child abduction is when an individual took a child in the good faith belief that they were protecting the child from a threat and/or immediate bodily harm.

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What Is Kidnapping?

Kidnapping is defined by California law as “the taking and carrying away of another person by use of force or fearful threats.” You can also be charged with kidnapping if:

  • You hire someone to kidnap the victim
  • You improperly persuade or seduce a child under the age of 14 to leave the state to perform a lewd act
  • You commit an act of human trafficking

To be convicted of kidnapping, a prosecutor must prove that:

  • You took, held or detained another person by using force or by instilling reasonable fear
  • Using force or fear, you moved the other person (or made the other person move) a substantial distance
  • That person did not agree to be moved

The biggest difference between child abduction and kidnapping is that the victim doesn’t have to be a child in order to constitute kidnapping. However, the penalties are harsher if the victim is under 14 years of age.

Penalties For Being Convicted

Because both crimes are felonies, the penalties of a conviction of either are severe.

Child Abduction: Up to four years in prison and fines up to $10,000.

Kidnapping: Between three and eight years in prison. However, if the victim was under 14 years of age, the sentence can be extended up to eleven years.

Contacting A Criminal Defense Attorney

If you’ve been accused and/or charged of kidnapping or child abduction, you need to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately.

At Quinnan Law, we have extensive experience helping clients defend against both types of charges and we can help you begin planning a defense strategy right away. Please contact our office for a free consultation.


At Quinnan Law, we offer every client a free phone consultation to discuss their unique situation and determine how we can help. To arrange a consultation, please fill out the adjacent form or call us at: (707) 540-2356.

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