What is considered to be Kidnapping

Criminal law defines the act of kidnapping as the taking by force a victim, and keeping them illegally imprisoned. In the U.S., a considerable number of child kidnappings occur as the result of a custody battle. If the child gives their consent to be taken from the custodial parent, and the child is considered competent, certain jurisdictions do not define it as a kidnapping.


The U.S. kidnapping law derives from Britain's common law. In 1932, Charles and Anne Lindbergh lost their child to a kidnapper. The outcome of this world-wide publicized event was the passage of the Federal Kidnapping Act, giving the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) the authority to investigate kidnapping incidents. This federal law states if the kidnapper takes the child beyond state borders, the crime can be federally prosecuted.

Carrying out a kidnapping in the U.S. is a difficult endeavor with several risks attached to it:

• the exchange of ransom carries the risk of being caught or spied on.
• courts hand down stringent prison sentences.
• federal prosecutors can level charges if the child was taken beyond state borders.
• search tools such as the AMBER Alert System can pick up a kidnapper's trail quickly.
• optimal law enforcement cooperation between jurisdictions speeds the process of apprehension.

As of 2010, the U.S. was listed in the top ten of all countries for ransom kidnappings. Within the U.S., Phoenix, Arizona is considered unofficially as the kidnapping capital of the U.S. Other large U.S. cities where many numbers of kidnappings occur include Houston, New Orleans, and Chicago.

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