Kidnapping is a considered a crime if a person has unlawfully removed another without consent from the place where he/she is. It is also considered kidnapping when a person has confined another person without his/her consent for a substantial period of time under five criteria. Some instances of kidnapping have prompted many people to question the adequacy of laws regarding kidnapping.
Since the perpetrator can sometimes only be considered to be kidnapping a person under certain circumstances, people have been more closely scrutinizing legal statutes. It is considered kidnapping if the purpose of the act is:
- Holding the individual for ransom, reward, or any other act to be performed or not in order for him/her to be released
- Using the individual as a hostage or shield
- Interfering with performance of any governmental or political function
- Facilitating the commission of any felony or flight thereafter
- Inflicting physical injury on or terrorizing the victim or another
Now, lawmakers are looking more closely at what is described as kidnapping after abductions have occurred but were not charged as kidnapping. Due to incidents failing to meet certain state statutes to be considered a kidnapping, charges of a lesser penalty have been brought against the abductor. Research indicates that subjects who abduct children typically are not first time offenders.
If the abduction is not classified as kidnapping, the repeat offenders are able to serve less prison time if convicted increasing the likelihood that another kidnapping can occur. Legislation has been considered in some states to change kidnapping to simply taking a child younger than 14 years old without the consent of a parent or guardian. The FBI exercises jurisdiction and investigative responsibilities pursuant to federal statutes addressing kidnapping.
When notified, the FBI Field Offices and the FBI's National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime coordinate an immediate response. Because of The National Child Search Assistance Act of 1990, law enforcement agencies may not have a waiting period before accepting a missing child report. Any child reported missing would be immediately entered in to the state law enforcement system, as well as the National Crime Information Center (NCIC). The NCIC system allows law enforcement officers nationwide access to data.
A kidnapping investigation has one primary goal in mind, which is to safety return the kidnapping victim. The FBI, during the Preliminary Inquiry, will determine if the investigation is warranted under the Federal Kidnapping Statute of Title 18 USC Section 1201, meaning the FBI will then immediately join state and local authorities to help resolve the kidnapping case.
Kidnappings can occur by family members, not just strangers. According to the Department of Justice, a family member kidnaps nearly 200,000 children every year. While most of the kidnappings occur because of custody disputes, it is still considered unlawful. Luckily, 98% of the children are safely returned to their homes.
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