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18 USC Section 1201: Kidnapping

Federal Kidnapping Law: 18 USC Section 1201

According to 18 USC Section 1201 kidnapping is defined as unlawfully seizing, confining, abducting, or carrying away and holding for reward any person. Federal kidnapping charges can be brought when a person is kidnapped and transported across the US or international lines and in other cases defined in the 18 USC Section 1201.

18 USC Chapter 55 Includes Four Relevant Statutes Related to Kidnapping Crimes:

  • Kidnapping: 18 U.S. Code Section 1201
  • Ransom money: 18 U.S. Code Section 1202
  • Hostage taking 18 U.S. Code Section 1203:
  • International parental kidnapping 18 U.S. Code Section 1204:

Federal Jurisdiction for Kidnapping Charges

According to the U.S. Department of Justice federal jurisdiction over kidnapping arises in the following  six situations:

  • Kidnapping across the US or international lines
  • Kidnapping within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the US
  • Kidnapping within the special aircraft jurisdiction of the US
  • Kidnapping where the victim is a foreign official, official guest in the country or an internationally protected person
  • Kidnapping in where the victim is a federal officer or employee under certain circumstances
  • International parental kidnapping which involves a child under the age of 16.

It is important to mention that failure to release a kidnapped person within 24 hours after illegally carrying him away, abducting, confining , or seizing him will create a reputable presumption that the victim has been transported in foreign or interstate commerce.

18 U.S. Code Section 1204: Parental Kidnapping

Generally federal kidnapping charge doesn’t apply to matters involving the taking of a child by a parent except cases involving an international parental kidnapping.

18 U.S. Code Section 1204 applies when one parent takes the minor under the age of 16 years outside of the US with the intent to obstruct the lawful exercise of another parent’s parental right. The statute doesn’t apply to matters concerning the taking of minor by a parent traveling from one state to another within the borders of the US unless the parental rights had been terminated by the court absolute order.

Penalties for Federal Kidnapping

In case the victim is a child and the defendant is an adult who is not a parent, a grandparent, a brother, a sister, an aunt, an uncle or a person who has a legal custody of the victim then he will face:

  • Up to 20 years in federal prison for violating 18 USC section 1114.

In case two or more persons conspire to violate 18 USC Section 1201 and any one of them performed an overt act to further the conspiracy, each person involved in the conspiracy can face:

  • Imprisonment for any term of years or for life.

Even in case a person attempts to violate federal kidnapping laws he can also face:

  • Up to 20 years in federal prison.


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