Most people (rightfully so) associate kidnapping with situations where the victim is abducted and held for some kind of ransom. However, New Jersey law also broadly defines kidnapping as any situation where someone is abducted or confined to:
- Facilitate some other crime
- Terrorize or injure the victim
- Permanently deprive a parent of custody, or
- Interfere with government operational
That means you can end up with a kidnapping charge for losing your cool in an argument and holding your partner in a locked room. Fleeing with your child in the middle of a custody battle also could be kidnapping. Whatever the situation, kidnapping charges are very serious.
The level of the charges matters
Generally speaking (with some exceptions related to minors), if the victim was not harmed and was released in a safe place prior to your apprehension, you would be charged with second-degree kidnapping. It carries a potential sentence of up to 10 years in prison.
If, however, the victim escaped, was hurt during the kidnapping or was freed by the authorities, that elevates the kidnapping offense to a first-degree charge. If convicted of that crime, you are facing a minimum of 25 years in prison and a maximum of life behind bars. Similarly, if the victim is a minor under 16 years of age who was sexually assaulted, that also constitutes a first-degree charge.
Your situation could easily get worse
Because kidnapping is considered an inherently violent act, the prosecution also may decide to invoke the “No Early Release Act.” That means, if convicted, you will have to serve 85% of your sentence before you are eligible for parole.
Understanding the charges against you and the potential penalties you face is the first step toward building a proactive defense. When your entire future and your freedom are on the line, take immediate action to protect yourself.