If you are facing criminal charges, you might wonder what the distinction is between false imprisonment and kidnapping. Both charges are felonies that carry penalties like fines and incarceration. Nevertheless, when comparing the two crimes, judges and prosecutors deem kidnapping to be more severe than false imprisonment. You should seek seasoned Sacramento legal assistance to build your case defense, regardless of your criminal activity. The attorney can also engage in plea bargain negotiations to help you reduce your kidnapping charge to false imprisonment.

Defining False Imprisonment

False imprisonment under PC 236 occurs when a defendant detains or confines another individual without their permission or legal justification.

False imprisonment has two classifications, namely, felony false imprisonment and misdemeanor false imprisonment.

Some elements should be met to ascertain misdemeanor false imprisonment. These case elements include the following:

  • You had no consent.
  • Intentional confinement.
  • Awareness that the restraint would deprive the victim of their liberty.

Felony false imprisonment occurs through:

  • Threats.
  • Duress.
  • Physical force.
  • Psychological means.
  • Violence.

It is crucial to understand that a false imprisonment charge does not focus on transportation but on the illegal act of detaining someone and limiting their liberty to leave.

False Imprisonment Penalties and Consequences

Under California PC 236, false imprisonment is a wobbler, meaning the prosecutor will review the case facts and your criminal history to determine if you will face prosecution for a felony or a misdemeanor.

A misdemeanor conviction is punishable by up to one year in county jail and a one-thousand-dollar fine. A felony conviction carries three years in California state prison and ten thousand dollars in fines. The sentences can be four (4) years if the alleged victim is a dependent adult or a senior citizen.

Please note that the following aggravating factors can enhance your state prison sentence:

  • Use of a firearm attracts ten additional years in prison.
  • You could face 25 more years if you discharged a firearm.
  • If you violate PC 236 for a criminal street gang’s gain, you risk spending four (4) years to life imprisonment, depending on your case circumstances.
  • You could face life imprisonment if the gun severely injured the alleged victim.

False Imprisonment Case Defenses

In a false imprisonment charge, you must enlist legal representation to defend your rights and interests and pursue a favorable case outcome. The defense strategies your attorney can use, depending on your case facts, include the following:

  • Legal authority to restrain — You can raise this defense if you are a law enforcement official. You cannot be convicted of PC 236 if you can legally restrain somebody else.
  • Consent — It is a practical defense to prove the alleged victim voluntarily agreed to be detained, confined, or restrained. You can verify consent through written communication, eyewitness testimony, or recordings.
  • Shopkeeper’s privilege — You can use this defense if you are a shopkeeper or store owner with probable cause that your customer violated the shoplifting law. The privilege permits you to detain the suspect as you investigate the matter. However, you should conduct the investigation reasonably and for a reasonable duration.
  • False accusations — Probably, a person falsely accuses you due to a misunderstanding, revenge, anger, or jealousy. The alleged victim might have mistakenly identified you. You can demonstrate this defense using eyewitness testimonies and video evidence.
  • Parental rights — As a parent, you are entitled to discipline your children in a manner that limits their freedom of movement, like imposing timeouts and grounding them. The legal defense applies, provided your child does not suffer unduly or sustain injuries.

Kidnapping Charges in California

Per California PC 207, kidnapping is a more severe crime, and it consists of the illegal abduction, restraint, or confinement of another individual, with certain additional case elements that make it different from false imprisonment.

In a California kidnapping charge, certain elements must apply, including:

  • You intentionally moved the victim.
  • The movement was against the victim’s free will.
  • You moved the victim through fear, force, deception, or fraud. A kidnapping charge should also contain an element of transportation or physical movement of the kidnapped person, showing a greater level of harm and danger.

A kidnapping charge falls into two categories:

  • Simple kidnapping.
  • Aggravated kidnapping.

Simple kidnapping occurs when you move another individual without their consent using fear or force.

On the other hand, aggravated kidnapping happens if any of these specific aggravating factors exist:

  • You kidnapped the victim when violating carjacking laws.
  • The victim sustained bodily injuries or died.
  • The victim is a minor below 14.
  • You demanded ransom.

Kidnapping Criminal Penalties

The penalties you face depend on the facts of your case.

Simple kidnapping is a California felony. The penalties include fines not exceeding $10,000 and a prison sentence of a maximum of eight (8) years in state prison or both.

If you violated aggravated kidnapping, you would face:

  • An eleven-year prison sentence if your victim was below 14 during the crime commission.
  • Life imprisonment with parole if you kidnapped a person for ransom or to engage in robbery, sex crime, extortion, or carjacking.

Kidnapping is a three-strikes crime and can result in enhanced penalties for individuals with a previous criminal history.

Kidnapping Case Defenses

The following defense strategies can be valid in a kidnapping charge:

Lack of Sufficient Evidence

The case will likely be based on heresies if the prosecutor charges you with simple kidnapping without any additional crimes. It will be easier for your lawyer to defend you if there is no evidence other than the victim‘s corroborated word.

Typically, people can make false allegations based on emotions like:

  1. Jealousy.
  2. Anger.
  3. Revenge.

Generally, individuals falsely accuse others of gaining control over them during contentious custody hearings.

The Victim Agreed to the Kidnapping Act

Consent would come into play if you reasonably believed the alleged victim agreed to be moved. It means that if the other person's conduct shows that they willingly followed you to the location, you could be acquitted of PC 207 charges even if they afterward claim that you took them against their consent.

You Did Not Move the Alleged Victim a Significant Distance that Warrants a Kidnapping Charge

Before your conviction, the prosecutor must verify that you moved the alleged victim a substantial distance. In other words, you are not guilty if you moved the victim:

  1. A distance that would not cause them additional harm.
  2.  A trivial distance.

Your Guardianship Rights Permitted You to Move the Minor to Another Location

You have a right to travel with your son/daughter as a parent with your child’s legal custody. That means you cannot be sentenced for kidnapping if you take your child on a trip without informing your partner.

Statutory Exemption

A judge cannot convict you of PC 207 if:

  1. You place the victim under a citizen’s arrest.
  2. You took, harbored, hid, or stole a juvenile below 14 with the intent to safeguard the minor from the risk of imminent harm.

Differences Between California False Imprisonment and Kidnapping

False imprisonment and kidnapping might seem like similar offenses because both involve taking another person’s liberty without their permission. Nevertheless, these two offenses are different, and the most notable distinctions between them are:

  • False imprisonment happens in one location, while kidnapping involves a change of location.
  • You can falsely imprison a person without using fear or force. On the other hand, kidnapping involves instilling fear or applying force.

In other words, false imprisonment pays attention to confining a person without their consent, while kidnapping requires movement, intent, and elements like deception, fraud, fear, or force.

Kidnapping is a more severe crime because of the inherent potential for significant harm.

What Form of Movement is Adequate for a Kidnapping Charge?

One essential element of false imprisonment vs. kidnapping in California is moving the alleged victim from point A to point B. However, what kind of movement is adequate for a kidnapping charge? Does moving an individual to the next room within a home count?

Regarding a kidnapping charge, three (3) types of movement are eligible as enough for the charges. They include the following:

  • Moving somebody else by force (For instance, picking a child and taking them to a different location).
  • Convincing an individual to move to a different location using fraud (For example, telling an infant that you will take them to their mother).
  • Moving another individual by force or threat (For example, pointing a gun at a person and ordering them to walk in a particular direction).

For kidnapping to occur, you should move the victim a substantial distance that is more than trivial or slight. No set distance qualifies as significant or trivial. Some of the factors the jury or judge considers during the determination include the following:

  • The distance you moved the alleged victim.
  • Whether your movement increased the possibility of risk to the victim.
  • Whether your movement reduced your possibility of being caught.

Facing false imprisonment and fraud charges for the same criminal conduct is impossible. Once you move a person from point A to point B, what would have been false imprisonment charges automatically become kidnapping charges.

Plea Bargain

Since you cannot kidnap a person without falsely imprisoning them, PC 236 is a less severe crime than kidnapping. That means even when the prosecution files a kidnapping case, the jury or judge can choose to convict you of PC 236 instead.

Additionally, false imprisonment is a perfect plea bargaining instrument. If the case facts supporting the PC 207 charges are not substantial or have loopholes, your attorney can engage in plea bargain negotiations for a reduced charge.

A plea bargain is an agreement between a prosecutor and a defendant where the defendant agrees to plead nolo contendere or guilty in return for an agreement that the prosecution will drop one charge or reduce the criminal charge to a less severe crime.

Prosecutors have tight schedules and limited resources. A plea bargain is pocket-friendly and efficient and guarantees a favorable outcome instead of the uncertainty of proceeding to trial. Most prosecutors are analyzed based on the number of successful cases.

Additionally, the prosecution could be hesitant to proceed to trial if it would expose the informant. An informant could be required to testify at the trial court hearing, which can lead to the defense impeaching their testimony if they have a previous criminal record. In other cases, the prosecution could be sympathetic to the alleged crime and decide to resolve the case quietly and efficiently.

Pros of Accepting a Plea Bargaining Offer

When accepting the prosecutor’s plea offer, it is crucial to understand what the prosecution is offering and the consequences. Here are reasons why a plea agreement might be a perfect choice:

  • Lighter sentence — The less severe crime carries less stigma and can help you preserve your relationships with your loved ones and community members.
  • Certainty of your case outcome — It is stressful when prosecuted for an offense since you do not know your case's outcome. Even when you are innocent, you are not guaranteed that the judge will not find you guilty at trial. By accepting the offer, you get rid of uncertainties and have control over what occurs to you.

Cons of Accepting the Offer

Like most life decisions, pleading guilty or no contest comes with adverse consequences, including the following:

  • Criminal record — Agreeing to the plea offer will require you to plead guilty to false imprisonment. In short, you will have a criminal record for life.
  • Loss of legal rights — Your guilty plea will waive your right to a public jury trial, entitlement against self-incrimination, and your right to confront case witnesses.

Before agreeing to take the offer, you should consult your criminal defense attorney. The legal counsel will offer you as much information as possible on the consequences of the available legal options. That way, you can make the best decision.

Find a Competent Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

The crimes of kidnapping and false imprisonment have similarities, and defendants in Sacramento are often confused when they are prosecuted with one instead of the other. Knowing their variations can assist you in understanding the rationale behind your charges and the most appropriate legal defenses. If you are facing either of these charges, contact the legal team at Foos Gavin Law Firm at 916-779-3500. We can offer you a confidential and no-obligation review of your unique case facts. We can also advise you on the best legal steps to take.