25-Year Old Child Abduction Case (CA Penal Code 278)

A former professor at Arizona State University has recently been charged in connection with a child abduction she allegedly committed approximately 25 years ago. Law enforcement officials claim that the woman took her only daughter from Santa Clara County while in the midst of divorce proceedings in 1990. Afraid for her daughter’s safety, having accused her former husband of molesting the child, the woman brought the child to Arizona in secret, changing both their names in order to elude her ex. It too, 25 years to track the woman and her child down, and this was accomplished only through the use of social media, among other means. The suspect has been charged with the abduction of a child.

Any person who takes a child away from his or her family or legal guardian when they do not have custody of that child is in violation of California’s law against the abduction of a child (CA Penal Code 278). Even if you are, as in the case above, the parent of said child, if there is a dispute concerning custody or if you have had your parental rights limited or taken away by a court, you may be found guilty of this charge. Although you may think that ‘kidnapping’ charges would more aptly apply, in cases of child abduction, the victims are considered to be both the child and the guardian they have been taken away from. Thus, child abduction is a special kind of kidnapping, under the law.

Child abduction is a ‘wobbler’ in the state of California. What this means is that this crime may be treated either as a misdemeanor or as a felony, depending upon the whim of the prosecutor or prosecutors in charge of the case and the particular circumstances of the case. A conviction for a misdemeanor charge of child abduction may lead to up to 1 year in county jail and a fine of $1,000. However, and for the former ASU professor, a conviction for felony child abduction could mean facing up to 4 years in state prison and a possible $10,000 fine.