The state of California has made taking a child from their parent or legal guardian a criminal act. Individuals who take a child with no right of custody can face charges under California Penal Code Section 278: Child Abduction.
Child abduction is very similar to the charge of kidnapping. Find out how these two charges relate and learn about the repercussions for a PC 278 violation here. The Simmrin Law Group can also help you review legal defenses to child abduction charges.
California’s Definition of Child Abduction
Child abduction is legally defined within PC 278 in the state of California. According to this section of California’s legal code, individuals may be charged for:
- Intentionally Concealing or Keeping a Child from Their Legal Guardians or Parents
- Without Having Right of Custody Related to the Child
Individuals can abduct a child by enticing them. This means that a child can be led away or attracted without the use of force. Note that individuals may face charges for seducing or soliciting a minor if they attempt to lead a minor away for sexual purposes.
Comparing Child Abduction and Kidnapping in California
Individuals can be charged with child abduction for maliciously and intentionally taking a child and keeping them from their parents or guardians. This sounds very much like the legal definition for California Penal Code Section 207: Kidnapping.
Kidnapping occurs if someone:
- Uses Force or Fear
- To Transport Someone a Considerable Distance
- When the Person Doesn’t Want to Be Transported
Note that child abduction does not necessarily have to involve force of fear. Additionally, individuals can be charged with child abduction even if they do not transport the child anywhere. Merely keeping the child where their parent or legal guardian cannot find them is enough to warrant a PC 278 charge.
Additionally, kidnapping and child abduction are treated as crimes against different victims:
- Kidnapping is a Crime Against the Kidnapping Victim
- Child Abduction is a Crime Against the Parent or Guardian of the Abducted Child
Results of a Child Abduction Conviction
Individuals accused of child abduction in California may be charged with either a misdemeanor or a felony. Prosecutors can look at an individual’s criminal history and the facts surrounding the current offense when deciding how to prosecute PC 278.
The exact penalties for child abduction vary based on the severity of the charge. Individuals could expect to face:
Misdemeanor Penalties for PC 278
- Fines: Up to $1,000
- Jail Time: Up to One Year
Felony Penalties for PC 278
- Fines: Up to $10,000
- Prison Time: Up to Four Years
Individuals convicted under PC 278 in court may also need to pay restitution to the parents or guardians of the abducted child.
Legal Defenses for PC 278 Accusations in California
You may be able to build a legal defense if you are accused of child abduction in California. A criminal defense lawyer in Los Angeles can go over the details of your case starting right now. Depending upon your unique situation, a lawyer may be able to argue that:
You Weren’t Acting Maliciously
PC 278 charges should only apply if you take a minor because you were trying to commit a wrongful act, injure another person, or annoy someone else. If you took a minor because you believed you were doing the right thing – if, for example, you thought you were protecting the minor – you may be able to avoid a PC 278 conviction.
You Had Right of Custody for the Child
Parents and legal guardians are allowed to take children if they have legal custody of the minor. However, there are limitations to this rule. You may not take a child – even a child you have right of custody for – if you have illegal intentions or purposes.
You Took the Child from Someone Who Was Not a Legal Guardian
PC 278 charges only apply if you maliciously keep a child away from a legal guardian or parent. This means that if you take a child away from someone who is not legally responsible for them, you should not be charged under PC 278. Note that you can still be charged with kidnapping, depending upon the situation.
Get Legal Support from a Criminal Defense Lawyer in California
Make sure you are ready to deal with California Penal Code Section 278: Child Abduction charges by contacting the Simmrin Law Group. Our criminal defense lawyers can help you build a case. Speak with us now by calling (310) 896-2723 or filling out our online contact form.
You can get more information about PC 278 violations with a FREE initial case evaluation.