Minors under the age of 18 are legally to remain in the custody of their parents or legal guardians in the state of California. Individuals who maliciously take a child from the custody of a legal guardian or parent may be prosecuted under California Penal Code Section 278: Child Abduction.
California Penal Code Section 278.5: Child Abduction by Depriving Right to Custody or Visitation (also known as child detention) deals with a more specific aspect of this crime. PC 278.5 charges generally apply only if:
- One Individual Who Has Legal Custody of a Child
- Unlawfully Deprives Another Person of Custody of a Minor
- When the Other Person Has Custody or Visitation Rights
The Simmrin Law Group can help you go over the specific legal definition of PC 278.5 charges. You can focus on the penalties for a PC 278.5 conviction and legal defenses for this charge. You can also consider on how this charge is generally applied in California.
Child Abduction by Depriving Right to Custody or Visitation: Definition
California uses a very specific definition when dealing with child abduction by depriving right to custody or visitation. Individuals may face charges for:
- Taking, Keeping, Concealing, Withholding, or Enticing Away
- A Minor Under the Age of 18
- To Maliciously Deprive One of the Minor’s Legal Custodians the Right to Custody OR
- To Maliciously Deprive One of the Minor’s Legal Custodians the Right to Visitation
Individuals can face child detention charges even if the minor consented and wanted to stay with them. Additionally, individuals do not have to use force to keep, take, or conceal a minor. Any action that prevents a legal custodian from exercising their right to custody or visitation can lead to PC 278.5 charges.
Child Abduction by Depriving Right to Custody or Visitation: Real World Applications
The charges of PC 278.5 may be most commonly used in California with regards to child custody cases after a divorce.
In most cases of divorce involving children, parents are given rules about custody. These rules detail which parent should have legal custody of minor children at any given moment. Individuals who intentionally and maliciously violate these rules can be charged under PC 278.5.
Child Abduction by Depriving Right to Custody or Visitation: Penalties
The court system in California may treat child abduction by depriving right to custody or visitation as misdemeanor or a felony. Based upon this decision, an individual could face the following penalties for a conviction:
Misdemeanor PC 278.5 Violations:
- Fines of Up to $1,000
- Jail Time of Up to One Year
Felony PC 278.5 Violations:
- Fines of Up to $10,000
- Jail Time of Up to Three Years
Note that individuals can be charged separately for each child that is abducted to deprive rights to custody or visitation. This means that, for example, a father that keeps his three children past the limits of his custody agreement can be charged three times under PC 278.5.
Child Abduction by Depriving Right to Custody or Visitation: Legal Defenses
You do not have to face PC 278.5 charges without legal support. A Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer can go over your legal options if you are accused of child abduction by depriving rights to custody or visitation. A legal professional may build your defense by showing:
You Were Trying to Protect a Child
Legally, you do not have to return a child to the custody of an adult if you think it will result in immediate bodily injury or emotional harm. If you have reason to believe a child might be experiencing domestic violence, for example, you may maintain custody of the child. However, you must immediately begin legal proceedings to seek custody and to report the danger to the child.
You Were Not Acting Maliciously
According to PC 278.5, you should only be convicted for child detention if you maliciously try to maintain custody of a child. If you maintained custody of a minor due to carelessness or because time got away from you, you could avoid a PC 278.5 conviction.
A Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help with PC 248.5 Charges
Dealing with California Penal Code Section 278.5: Child Abduction by Depriving Right to Custody or Visitation charges alone can feel overwhelming. Get professional help on your side by contacting the Simmrin Law Group’s criminal defense lawyers in Los Angeles. Let us focus on your needs right now with a FREE case evaluation.
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