Penal Code 208(b) PC - Kidnapping a Minor Child Under 14
Kidnapping is a severe crime in California—a felony punishable by up to 8 years. However, if the kidnapping victim is under 14, it's considered a type of aggravated kidnapping, a much more severe offense under Penal Code 208(b) PC.
PC 208 says, “(a) Kidnapping is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for three, five, or eight years.
(b) If the person kidnapped is under 14 years of age at the time of the commission of the crime, the kidnapping is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for 5, 8, or 11 years. This subdivision is not applicable to the taking, detaining, or concealing of a minor child by a biological parent, a natural father, as specified in Section 7611 of the Family Code, an adoptive parent, or a person who has been granted access to the minor child by a court order.
(c) In all cases in which probation is granted, the court shall, except in unusual cases where the interests of justice would best be served by a lesser penalty, require as a condition of the probation that the person be confined in the county jail for 12 months. If the court grants probation without requiring the defendant to be confined in the county jail for 12 months, it shall specify its reason or reasons for imposing a lesser penalty.”
Simply put, you could face a substantial amount of time in state prison if convicted of this crime. Further, there are some federal international parental kidnapping laws. Let's review this state law in more detail below.
What Is Kidnapping?
Under California law, Penal Code 207, kidnapping is defined as taking or detaining someone against their will and moving them a significant distance by force or fear, such as physically moving them or threatening them with harm if they do not comply.
However, if the kidnapping victim is under the age of 14, the definition of kidnapping is extended to include anyone who "hires, persuades, entices, decoys, or seduces by false promises, misrepresentations, or the like" if the intent is to commit a lewd or lascivious act with the minor defined under Penal Code 288 PC.
Thus, under PC 208(b), you have committed the crime of kidnapping a minor under 14 if:
- The victim has not yet reached their 14th birthday;
- You use force or threats to detain and remove them;
- You move them a significant distance; or
- You entice or persuade them through deception to go with you with the intent of molesting them sexually.
What Are the Exceptions?
PC 208(b) does not apply to you if:
- You are the child's biological parent;
- You are the child's legal adoptive parent; or
- You are the child's legal guardian.
In other words, you are not guilty of kidnapping if you forcibly detain and move a minor for whom you are legally responsible in a parental way.
What Are Some Examples?
EXAMPLE 1: Fred grabs a 12-year-old boy as he is walking to school, forces him into his car, and detains him in his basement for ransom. Fred can be charged under PC 208(b).
EXAMPLE 2: Sam "befriends" a 10-year-old girl at the park and entices her to come with her in his car, saying he will "give her a ride home."
Sam then drives her away, intending to commit a lewd act with her. Although Sam did not use force, he can still be convicted under PC 208(b), along with other possible crimes.
EXAMPLE 3: Tom is Jerrod's father. Jerrod ignored a text to come home for dinner. Tom drives around the neighborhood, finds Jerrod, and forces him into the car to bring him home. Tom would not be guilty of kidnapping a minor.
What Are the Related Crimes?
Several California crimes are related to Penal Code 208(b) kidnapping a minor under 14, including the following:
- Penal Code 207 PC – kidnapping;
- Penal Code 209 PC – aggravated kidnapping;
- Penal Code 209.5 PC - kidnapping during carjacking;
- Penal Code 236 PC – false imprisonment;
- 18 U.S.C. 1201 - federal kidnapping.
What Are the Penalties for PC 208(b)?
Kidnapping a minor under 14 is a serious felony offense with stiffer penalties than kidnapping, including the following.
- For general kidnapping offenses, such as the victim being 14 or older: the penalty is 3, 5, or 8 years in prison, depending on the facts of the case.
- The penalty for kidnapping a minor under 14 is increased to 5, 8, or 11 years.
In addition, in the rare instance where the judge determines that probation would better serve the cause of justice, you would still have to do one year in county jail as a condition of your probation. Notably, there are situations where kidnapping can become a federal crime with harsher penalties.
What Are the Defenses for PC 208(b)?
If you're charged with kidnapping a minor under age 14, a skilled California criminal defense attorney may be able to employ one or more defenses to combat these charges. These are discussed below.
Perhaps we can argue that your actions did not constitute kidnapping. For example, if you did not use force or threats to convince the child to accompany you.
Perhaps you had no intention of molesting them or holding them for ransom. If you did neither, you are not guilty of kidnapping under California law, although other crimes may apply.
Perhaps we can argue that the minor was 14 during the alleged kidnapping. This defense would only be employed to get the charge reduced to general kidnapping and to avoid harsher sentencing.
Perhaps we can argue that you were the minor's parent, guardian, or legal custodian. Therefore, you had a legal right to remove the child from their environment and take them with you.
Perhaps we can argue that you are falsely accused. You may be innocent of wrongdoing but still accused of kidnapping due to mistaken identity or malicious intent. If you can show this as a case of mistaken identity or that someone has falsely accused you for their own purposes, you may be able to beat the charge.
If you were accused of violating Penal Code 208(b), contact our law firm by phone or use the contact form to review the case details and legal options. Eisner Gorin LLP is located in Los Angeles, California.