In criminal law, kidnapping is the taking away or transportation of a person against the person's will, usually to hold the person in false imprisonment, a confinement without legal authority. This may be done for ransom or in furtherance of another crime, or in connection with a child custody dispute.
Kidnapping is a common law offence requiring:
It would be difficult to kidnap without also committing false imprisonment, which is the common-law offence of intentionally or recklessly detaining the victim without lawful authority. The use of force to take and detain will also be regarded as an assault, and other, related offences may also be committed before, during, or after the detention.
In the terminology of the common law in many jurisdictions (according to Black's Law Dictionary), the crime of kidnapping is labelled abduction when the victim is a woman. In modern usage, kidnapping or abduction of a child is often called child stealing, particularly when done not to collect a ransom but rather with the intention of keeping the child permanently (often in a case where the child's parents are divorced or legally separated, whereupon the parent who does not have legal custody will commit the act, also known as "childnapping"). Today, the term is no longer restricted to the case of a child victim.
Child abduction can refer to children being taken away without their parents' consent but with the consent of the child. In England and Wales, it is child abduction to take away a child under the age of 16 without parental consent.
However the offence of kidnap in the case of a competent minor requires the absence of consent from the minor. This means that a parent commits kidnapping if he takes the child against its will but if a 3rd party takes the child away from the parents with the child's consent the 3rd party does not commit the offence of kidnapping
The National Crime Information Center maintains a roster of missing persons, and groups them into categories. In 2008, there were 778,161 missing person reports logged on their system, of which 745,088 were eventually removed. Of those reported missing, 87,497 were listed as being in physical danger, and 20,562 were listed as being missing involuntarily.
Of the 589,761 juveniles reported missing in 2008, 13,046 were considered to have been in physical danger. Of those, 6,094 were considered to be missing involuntarily. Although the FBI does not maintain official statistics of the crime of kidnapping, presumably those known or suspected to have been kidnapped would fall under the "involuntary" category.
As the United States is estimated to have a population of about 304 million people, if 20,561 persons were reported kidnapped in 2008, it would amount to a kidnapping rate of 6.7 per 100,000 persons; as the United States is estimated to have a population of about 74 million persons under age 18, it would amount to a kidnapping rate among persons under 18 of 8.2 per 100,000.
According to the National Crime Information Center:
As of December 20, 2007, there were 105,229 active missing person records in NCIC. Juveniles under the age of 18 accounted for 54,648 (51.93%) of the records, and 12,362 (11.75%) were for juveniles between the ages of 18 and 20. During 2007, 814,967 missing person records were entered into the 836,131 records entered in 2006. Missing person records cleared or cancelled during the same period totaled 820,212. Reasons for these removals include: the subject was located by a law enforcement agency; the individual returned home; or the record had to be removed by the entering agency due to a determination that the record was invalid. In 2007, there were 518 records entered as Abducted by a Stranger; 299,787 entered as Runaway; and 2,919 entered as Abducted by Non-Custodial Parent. This only accounts for 303,224 entries of the 418,967 entered, or 72.4%, which is an increase from 297,632 entries of the 836,131 entered, or 35.6%, in 2006. The Missing Person Circumstances field is optional and has been available since July 1999 when the NCIC 2000 came on-line. This is not an accurate reflection of the actual circumstances of all the entries.
It should be noted that the 814,967 figure merely represents the number of missing persons reported, regardless of whether they were later confirmed to have been kidnapped or abducted.
Following the highly publicized 1932 Lindbergh kidnapping, Congress authorized the FBI to investigate kidnapping at a time when the Bureau was expanding in size and authority. The fact that a kidnapped victim may have been taken across state lines brings the crime within the ambit of federal criminal law.
There are several deterrents to kidnapping in the United States of America. Among these are:
The harsh sentences imposed and the poor risk-to-benefit ratio compared with other crimes have caused kidnapping for ransom virtually to die out in the United States. One notorious failed example of kidnap for ransom was the Chowchilla bus kidnapping, in which 26 children were abducted with the intention of bringing in a $5 million ransom. Kidnappings for profit that do occur in or into the United States today are often connected to other ongoing criminal activity, such as human trafficking.
According to a 2003 Domestic Violence Report in Colorado, out of a survey of 189 incidents, most people (usually white females) are taken from their homes or residence by a present or former spouse or significant other. They are usually taken by force, not by weapon, and usually the victims are not injured when they are freed.
Kidnapping for ransom is a common occurrence in various parts of the world today, and certain cities and countries are often described as the "Kidnapping Capital of the World." As of 2007, that title belongs to Baghdad. In 2004, it was Mexico, and in 2001 it was Colombia. Haiti also has frequent kidnappings (starting several years ago), as do certain parts of Africa.
In the past, and presently in some parts of the world (such as southern Sudan), kidnapping is a common means used to obtain slaves and money through ransom. In less recent times, kidnapping in the form of shanghaiing (or "pressganging") men was used to supply merchant ships in the 19th century with sailors, whom the law considered unfree labour.
KIDNAPPING (from kid, a slang term for a child, and nap or nab, to steal), originally the stealing and carrying away of children and others to serve as servants or labourers in the American plantations; it was defined by Blackstone as the forcible abduction or stealing away of a man, woman or child from their own country and sending them into another. The difference between kidnapping, abduction (q.v.) and false imprisonment is not very great; indeed, kidnapping may be said to be a form of assault and false imprisonment, aggravated by the carrying of the person to some other place. The term is, however, more commonly applied in England to the offence of taking away children from the possession of their parents. By the Offences against the Person Act 1861, "whosoever shall unlawfully, by force or fraud, lead or take away or decoy or entice away or detain any child under the age of fourteen years with intent to deprive any parent, guardian or other person having the lawful care or charge of such child of the possession of such child, or with intent to steal any article upon or about the person of such child, to whomsoever such article may belong, and whosoever shall with any such intent receive or harbour any such child, &c.," shall be guilty of felony, and is liable to penal servitude for not more than seven years, or to imprisonment for any term not more than two years with or without hard labour. The abduction or unlawfully taking away an unmarried girl under sixteen out of the possession and against the will of her father or mother, or any other person having the lawful care or charge of her, is a misdemeanour under the same act. The term is used in much the same sense in the United States.
The kidnapping or forcible taking away of persons to serve at sea is treated under Impressment.