When people hear the word “kidnapping,” they imagine an extreme scenario, such as a hostage situation or a victim being held at gunpoint. However, in reality, kidnapping charges can stem from a custody dispute issue that gets out of hand. Kidnappings aren't commonly committed by complete strangers, but by someone that the victim trusts, like a family member.
Parental abductions have become increasingly common over the years for a variety of reasons. For one, more couples from different countries are marrying, and the divorce rate is at an all-time high. As a result, more than 200,000 parental kidnappings happen every year. This crime can lead to serious ramifications for everyone involved, but child victims are most affected.
Parental kidnapping is more than a custody dispute, it's illegal. If you're criminally charged, it's easy for well-intentioned behavior on your behalf to spiral out of control into a serious legal crisis. In this article, we'll explore what constitutes parental kidnapping in Pennsylvania, the legal repercussions that can be imposed if charged and convicted, and viable defenses.
With your freedom and the relationship with your child at stake, you need a Pennsylvania attorney who can build a solid case in your favor. If you've been accused of parental kidnapping, contact Joseph D. Lento today.
What Constitutes “Parental Kidnapping” in Pennsylvania?”
According to Pennsylvania law, parental kidnapping, also known as the interference with custody of children, occurs when a person “knowingly or recklessly takes or entices any child under the age of 18 years from the custody of their parent, guardian or other lawful custodian, when he or she has no privilege to do so.” Whether or not the abducting parent has the “privilege” to take the child depends on the custody order and on the circumstances that could justify their actions.
Although custody disputes are usually civil court matters, parental kidnapping is a third-degree felony. A third-degree felony in the state carries a prison sentence of 3.5 to 7 years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.
This crime can be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor if the parent who takes the child has partial custody or visitation under an existing order and takes the child for 24 hours or less, and does not remove the child from the state. This warrants a prison sentence from 1 to 2 years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.
An indictment for parental kidnapping charges is determined by the prevalence of a number of factors. Attorney Joseph D. Lento of the Lento Law Firm has an adept knowledge of the elements in a case that must be proven to prosecute a defendant of parental kidnapping, and therefore understands the potential defenses to assert to disprove these elements. A defense can be convincing that it leads to a defendant's sentence being reduced or dismissed. A solid defense can even lead to the dismissal of your case altogether. The following defenses could possibly be asserted in your case if applicable:
- You have privilege under the existing custody order
- There was a reasonable belief that the abduction was necessary to protect the child from danger
- The child taken was at least 14 years old and there were no criminal intentions
Pennsylvania Family Law & Criminal Defense Attorney
If you're arrested for parental kidnapping, you shouldn't rely on your divorce attorney for help. Get the help of an experienced criminal defense lawyer to build a case for you and represent you. Remember to not discuss the circumstances of an incident without an attorney present. If the police attempt to question you, you should decline to answer and request an attorney.
If it's only a civil matter, you need the help of a seasoned family law attorney. Joseph D. Lento is well-versed in both areas of law. He will provide you with options in these predicaments. He keeps flexible office hours and is willing to work around your schedule. To set up a consultation or for more information about Mr. Lento's representation, contact the Lento Law Firm either online or by phone at 888-535-3686.