Child Abduction

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.

Woman with Fake Baby Attempts to Gain Access to Maternity Ward; Arrested on Charges of Criminal Trespassing (CA Penal Code 602)

42-year-old woman (name withheld in order to protect the privacy of the accused) tried to get into the maternity ward at Mercy Medical Center Merced before she was arrested for trespassing.  Once, she entered the hospital alone, then a second time with a male companion.  Both times, however, she pretended that the life-like baby doll was a real child, even going so far as to change its diapers and pose for pictures with it.  So what was this woman playing at?  Some local law enforcement officials believe that she was attempting to enter the maternity ward with the doll in order to abduct a child, leaving the fake baby in its place.  She, however, says that she was simply trying to gain access to the ward in order to sell new mothers the life-like doll as a ‘training tool.’

Forget for a moment what her real intentions might have been, prosecutors will claim that she was rightfully arrested on charges of criminal trespass (CA Penal Code 602).  In California, the crime of trespassing can occur in a varied number of circumstances, basically, if you enter or remain anywhere that you do not have permission to do so, barring other rights, you could be arrested.

Usually, violations of CA PC 602 are treated as misdemeanors.  If convicted of misdemeanor trespassing, you could end up paying a maximum $1,000 fine and spending 6 months or so in county jail.  There are even instances in which trespassing is considered an even less serious offense and the alleged perpetrator end up only having to pay a small fine.  However, ‘aggravated trespass’ is a different matter altogether; if you threaten anyone and then enter their residence or place of work without permission, you face more serious penalties, namely, up to 3 years in jail and an additional fine.

 

Former Juvenile Housed by CYA Kidnaps 7-Year-Old Girl in Sacramento (CA Penal Code §288)

Now 25 years old, Cedric Holland has a history of upsetting the Sacramento legal system.  7 years ago, Holland was convicted on an offense that eventually led to his being on the California sex offender registry – (CA Penal Code §288).  He was handed over to the California Youth Authority (CYA), which is now known as the California Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ).  In May of this year, he kidnapped a 7-year-old girl who was walking with her mother near 54th and 47th in the early afternoon hours.  The girl was somehow taken from her mother, stuffed in the trunk of Holland’s car, and then managed to escape, running to ask for a stranger’s aid.

There are, however, some inconsistencies that seem to be present in this case.  First, the CYA/DJJ is an institutional mechanism whose goal is supposedly to rehabilitate juvenile offenders.  At the time of his first arrest, Holland must have been under the age of 18; otherwise, he would have been tried as an adult.  Yet, either the state of California’s rehabilitative efforts fell on deaf ears or Holland became a more violent criminal during his time there.  Should we begin to doubt that the DJJ truly aims at rehabilitation of juvenile offenders? The DJJ only houses violent and serious criminals, persons who are repeat sex offenders and gang members. Are we to believe that one conviction pursuant to CA Penal Code §288 warranted his placement in such a facility?

There are other questions that also need answering: How, for example, did Holland so easily get the child away from her mother?  How is it that the girl’s mother was unable to stop him from stuffing the 7-year-old in the trunk of his car – in broad daylight and at a busy intersection?  Many things remain a mystery in the Holland case; one thing is, however, certain – his bail has been set at a whopping $1 million.

Child Abduction and Kidnapping Laws in California

11-month-old Gabriela Quintero had a happy reunion with her mother nearly 5 hours after she was taken from their home in Amador Court.  Quintero’s mother had just placed her daughter into their jeep and run back into the house for some packages when the vehicle was stolen- with young Gabriela in the back seat.  The car, and the baby girl, was eventually found in Amargosa Court – nearly 6 miles from the abduction site.

California laws concerning kidnapping are covered under Penal Code, § 207, 208, 209, & 209.5.  Here, kidnapping is defined as moving another person a substantial distance without their consent and using either force or fear (or a combination of both) to accomplish this.  A client facing a “simple kidnapping” charge in the state of California faces a felony charge and up to 8 years in state prison.

Child abduction and kidnapping are, however, a different story.  CA PC §278 described child abduction as a ‘wobbler,’ meaning that an individual accused of this crime could face a $10,000 maximum fine and a maximum of 4 years in state prison.  This means that a judge could sentence you for both child abduction and for kidnapping, sentences to be carried out consecutively, if he or she desires.  Of course, there are several defenses to these charges. The first of these is a lack of evidence for the crime.  Additionally, it must be proven that the alleged victim did not consent to being moved. Lastly, although you may have been present at a kidnapping, it must be proven that you actually participated in the crime in order to be convicted of the offense.

If you are facing child abduction or kidnapping charges in California, contact a child abduction attorney at Summit Defense Law Offices for a free initial consultation.