Florida Kidnapping Laws Still Apply to Parents
Many people would assume that it isn’t possible to kidnap your own child, which is why they could be confused when they are arrested on kidnapping charges in Florida – especially where the child is perfectly happy to be with his or her parent. The issue usually comes into play during divorce proceedings or situations of domestic violence, but kidnapping can occur any time you interfere with the rights of the child’s other parent. A knowledgeable Florida criminal defense attorney can clear up some confusion, but an overview of parental kidnapping may shed some light on this offense.
General Provisions on Kidnapping: Florida’s statutes group kidnapping and child custody offenses together, describing kidnapping as the taking, confining, or imprisoning a person against their will. Special considerations include:
- Kidnapping can be accomplished forcibly or through secretive acts;
- There must be a lack of authority to hold the victim; and,
- There must be an intent to commit a felony, terrorize someone, inflict injury, hold a person for ransom.
Kidnapping by Parents: The key to parental kidnapping under Florida law is that the statute includes the taking of a person in a way that interferes with performance a government function. That could include confining a child when there is no parental consent to do so. It is not necessary to show that the offender intends to hurt the child, request a ransom, or terrorize them. The intent to interfere with child custody is sufficient, such as where one parent will not allow the other parenting time.
In addition, you could be charged with parental kidnapping if you take your child out of Florida without permission. In child custody matter, Florida courts have jurisdiction, so this is also interfering with the functions of a governmental body. The exception is where a person removes the child for safety reasons, such as where the other parent is abusive or threatening.
Penalties and Other Consequences: Interference with custodial rights is a Third Degree Felony in Florida. Though it’s on the low end on the punishment scale, you could still face up to five years in prison and/or five years on probation. You may also be ordered to pay a fine of up to $5,000.
Plus, outside of criminal penalties, there could be implications for your parental rights on child custody and visitation. A family court judge is not likely to look favorably on a parent’s kidnapping conviction – or even an arrest. The child’s other parent may try to convince the court that you will engage in such criminal conduct in the future.
An Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help with Kidnapping Charges
If you were arrested for parental kidnapping or interference of custody, it’s important to consult with a skilled criminal defense attorney right away. Not only do you face prison time and fines, but you put your parental rights in jeopardy. For more information, please contact the Fort Lauderdale office of attorney Kevin J. Kulik. We can set up a consultation to review your situation and discuss defense options.