Penal Code 209 PC - Aggravated Kidnapping in California
This crime is distinct from simple PC 207 kidnapping due to its violent nature, often accompanied by significant bodily harm to the victim or a ransom demand. This crime is codified in Penal Code 209 PC.
In other words, PC 209 PC defines aggravated kidnapping as done for ransom or a reward or to commit another crime such as robbery, rape, or oral copulation. It's a more severe felony charge than regular kidnapping under Penal Code 207 PC and carries a life sentence in prison.
PC 209 says, “(a) A person who seizes, confines, inveigles, entices, decoys, abducts, conceals, kidnaps, or carries away another person by any means whatsoever with intent to hold or detain, or who holds or detains, that person for ransom, reward, or to commit extortion or to exact from another person any money or valuable thing, or a person who aids or abets any such act, is guilty of a felony.
(b) (1) A person who kidnaps or carries away an individual to commit robbery, rape, oral copulation, sodomy, or any violation of Section 264.1, 288, 289, or former Section 262, shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for life with the possibility of parole.
(2) This subdivision shall only apply if the movement of the victim is beyond that merely incidental to the commission of and increases the risk of harm to the victim over and above that necessarily present in the intended underlying offense.
(d) Subdivision (b) does not supersede or affect Section 667.61. A person may be charged with violating subdivision (b) and Section 667.61, but a person may not be punished for the same act….”
If you are convicted, you could face life imprisonment. Let's review this law further below.
What is the Law and Its Implications?
California Penal Code 209 PC outlines the legal parameters of aggravated kidnapping in general, which includes kidnapping to extort ransom or kidnapping in the commission of another crime, such as robbery, rape, forced oral copulation, sodomy, etc. This article will focus on the latter described in PC 209.
Under PC 207, kidnapping is defined as moving another person a substantial distance against their will using force or fear without their consent. This can encompass actions such as taking, holding, detaining, or arresting another person without their consent.
Key elements that must be proven for a kidnapping charge to hold include the use of force or fear to move the victim and the lack of consent from the victim.
“Force or fear” means that a defendant inflicted physical force on the alleged victim or threatened to inflict imminent physical harm.
When considering the charge of aggravated kidnapping under Penal Code 209(a) PC, the crime's severity is escalated by the perpetrator's intention to commit additional offenses such as rape or robbery.
This intentionality differentiates aggravated kidnapping from simple kidnapping, resulting in much stiffer penalties upon conviction.
California Penal Code 209(b) says that it is a crime for someone to kidnap another person to commit the following offenses:
- Penal Code 211 PC - robbery;
- Penal Code 261 PC - rape;
- Penal Code 287 PC - oral copulation;
- Penal Code 286 PC – sodomy.
Notably, both types of kidnapping under Penal Codes 209(a) and 209(b) PC are considered aggravated kidnapping.
It should also be noted that for the crime to be considered kidnapping for the purposes of committing another crime (such as robbery or rape), it must be proven that the victim's movement increased the risk of harm to them.
The text under Penal Code 209(b)(2) says that the subdivision will only apply if the victim's movement is beyond that merely incidental to the commission of it and it increases the risk of harm to the victim.
What Are the Elements of the Crime?
To procure a conviction of aggravated kidnapping under PC 209, prosecutors must prove all the elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt, including the following:
- You took a person a substantial distance;
- You did so without their consent and using force or fear;
- You did so in the commission (or attempted) of another serious or violent offense, such as robbery, rape, oral copulation, sodomy, etc.; and
- The movement of the victim substantially increased the risk of harm.
What Are Some Examples?
EXAMPLE 1: John forces a woman into his car in a secluded parking lot at gunpoint. He then drives her to a remote location to commit sexual assault. In this scenario, John can be charged with aggravated kidnapping as he has moved the victim a substantial distance by force and fear with the intent to commit another crime.
EXAMPLE 2: Tom picks his nephew up from school without permission and takes him across the state line for a "surprise vacation" without his parent's knowledge or consent. While this is a form of kidnapping, it does not meet the criteria for aggravated kidnapping. Although Tom moved his nephew a substantial distance, he did not intend to harm the child, demand a ransom, or commit another crime.
What Are the Related Laws?
There are some related California crimes for Penal Code 209 PC aggravated kidnapping, including the following:
- Penal Code 207 PC – kidnapping;
- Penal Code 209.5 PC – kidnapping during carjacking;
- Penal Code 208(b) PC – kidnapping a minor under 14;
- Penal Code 236 PC – false imprisonment;
- Penal Code 186.22 PC – gang enhancement law;
- Penal Code 210 PC – extortion by posing as a kidnapper;
- 18 U.S.C. 1202 – federal kidnapping law.
What Are the Penalties for PC 209?
The penalties for felony aggravated kidnapping for the purpose of committing rape or other forced sex crimes can be quite severe, as listed below:
- If you're convicted of this crime, the penalty by default is life imprisonment with the possibility of parole. This is in addition to the punishment for any crimes you committed against the victim;
- If you are accused of kidnapping for ransom, and the victim suffers serious bodily harm death, you will face imprisonment in the state prison for life without the possibility of parole.
Despite the severity of the penalty for conviction under PC 209, the judge may have the latitude to impose formal probation instead of life imprisonment.
If this happens, however, there is a mandatory minimum requirement of 12 months to be spent in county jail before probation begins. The judge may waive this requirement in rare cases where justice might be better served, provided a detailed explanation is given.
What Are the Defenses for PC 209?
Given the seriousness of an aggravated kidnapping charge, mounting a strong and aggressive defense is critical. A skilled California criminal defense attorney may implement any common defenses discussed below if you're charged with a crime under PC 209.
Perhaps we can argue there was a lack of Intent. One common defense is demonstrating that there was no intent to kidnap or commit another crime. If your attorney can show you didn't intend to move the victim a substantial distance or use the victim to commit another crime, you might be able to avoid a conviction.
Perhaps we can argue that there was consent. Another potential defense is showing that the alleged victim consented to the movement. If your attorney can prove that the victim willingly went with you, the charges may be dropped or reduced.
Perhaps we can argue that there was no underlying crime: If your attorney shows that you did not intend to commit another crime against the victim, you may get the charges reduced to simple kidnapping.
Perhaps we can argue that you were under duress. If your attorney can show that you kidnapped the victim because someone threatened you or your family with imminent harm, you may be able to avoid conviction.
Perhaps we can negotiate with the prosecutor prefiling to avoid criminal charges from being filed (DA reject). Contact us for a case review. Eisner Gorin LLP has offices in Los Angeles, CA.