Recently, a 1-year-old boy was abducted by a 42-year-old man in Riverside County. After an Amber Alert was issued, the two were found. Although the boy was unharmed, the suspect was taken into custody. It is unclear what kind of relationship the two had. With the complexities of familial matters, it is important to understand what constitutes child abduction and how you can defend against false allegations.
What Is Child Abduction?
Under California Penal Code Section 278, it is a crime to maliciously remove a child from his parent or legal guardian. In order to be convicted of child abduction under PC Section 278, the prosecutor must prove the following elements:
- The defendant maliciously took, enticed, withheld, or concealed a child from his lawful custodian.
- The child was under 18 years old.
- The defendant did not have a right to custody of the child when he acted.
- The defendant intended to detain or conceal the child from that child’s lawful custodian.
Here, “maliciously” means intentionally performing a wrongful act. A “lawful custodian” is a parent or guardian that has a right to custody of the child. It is important to note that even if the child consented to go with the defendant, he may still be liable for child abduction if the above elements are met.
Penalties for Child Abduction
California has serious laws surrounding children. A violation of PC Section 278 is a wobbler, meaning it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. For misdemeanors, child abduction is punishable by:
- Up to $1,000 in fines
- Up to 1 year in county jail
On the other hand, a felony child abduction is punishable by:
- Up to $10,000 in fines
- 2, 3, or 4 years in state prison
Defenses to Child Abduction
A defendant can only be charged under PC Section 278 if he did not have a right to custody of the child when he acted. Therefore, if the accused has legal custody of the child and does not engage in any unlawful act with the child, he cannot be prosecuted under the law. For example, if a father takes his daughter to a friend’s house, he is not guilty of child abduction.
No Malicious Intent
Another key element is that the defendant must have acted maliciously in taking, withholding, or concealing the child. A defense may be available if the defendant can show that he did not act with unlawful intent and instead acted with good faith. For instance, if a child appeared lost and the defendant offered to help, he may not be convicted of child abduction.
No Legal Custodian
A defendant is only guilty under PC Section 278 if he intended to detain or conceal the child from that child’s lawful custodian. However, if the person from whom the child was taken was not a lawful custodian, the accused may be able to present this defense. For example, if you see a child of your friend walking with a stranger and you intervene, you are not committing child abduction by taking the child away from the stranger.
Contact Wallin & Klarich Today
If you have been accused of child abduction in Riverside, contact our attorneys at Wallin & Klarich as soon as possible to see how we can help. With 40+ years of experience, Wallin & Klarich is your best choice amongst Southern California criminal defense firms. Our attorneys have helped thousands of clients in a wide range of criminal law cases, and we have the skills and resources to secure the best outcome for you.
With offices in Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Victorville, Torrance, West Covina, Los Angeles, and San Diego, you are sure to find an available and convenient attorney near you.
Discover how our team can assist you. Contact us today, toll-free at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free consultation with a skilled defense attorney.