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Observations on kidnapping charges

Kidnapping is a serious offense in New Jersey. It doesn't seem to happen often. When prosecutors do bring such serious criminal charges, the nature of the penalties if a conviction is won can be significant.

In New Jersey, the circumstances under which kidnapping might be alleged can vary broadly. The state's code sets two possible levels of kidnap charges. Both are considered violent crimes, however.

Grades of kidnapping

The state could allege kidnapping in the first degree if it believes it can prove any of the following conditions:

  • The victim was taken unlawfully from one place to another and held as a hostage, for ransom or reward.
  • The perpetrator confines the victim unlawfully with the intent to flee, harm, terrorize, or deprive a legal guardian of his or her custodial rights.

Conviction of first-degree kidnapping can mean prison time of up to 30 years. However, if the perpetrator releases the victim in some safe place, unharmed, second-degree kidnapping might be charged. The penalty for that is as much as 10 years.

Legal observers would likely agree that the nature of intent is such that it can have a strong mitigating effect when forming a criminal defense strategy. A recent case out of Virginia brings this to mind.

According to reports of the matter, a cab driver brought three adult females to their designated address on a recent Saturday night. When they got to the destination, police say a dispute broke out over the fare owed. The women said they couldn't pay.

It's alleged that the driver then locked the passenger doors and drove away with the women aboard. About ten minutes later, officials say the alleged victims managed to unlock the rear doors and escape the underway cab. No one was reported hurt and police took the driver into custody a short time later.

We do not know exactly what precipitated the actions here. Perhaps the suspect was simply looking out for his own business interests. What we do know is that in the face of criminal charges, this man is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Our hope is that he has retained proper counsel as he works to protect his rights.

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