Defending Against Parental Kidnapping Charges
Let’s say you’ve been through a particularly unpleasant divorce and have been battling custody issues from day one. Things escalate to the point that now your former spouse has accused you of kidnapping your own children. What now? Having an experienced criminal defense attorney at bat for you can mean the difference between life-changing penalties and a resolution that is good for both you and your children.
Kidnapping is a serious charge that cannot be taken lightly. It refers to the secret or forcible confinement or abduction of another individual without their consent or without lawful authority. While kidnapping is generally thought of as holding someone for ransom or in order to manipulate another entity, Florida statute also states that it can include confining a child under the age of 13 without the consent of that child’s legal guardian. That means even biological or adoptive parents must have the consent of the other parent if that parent has legal custody during the time frame under question. Attempting to leave the state, in particular, could lead to a sticky legal situation. While many of the kidnapping laws regarding children are designed to address stranger-related abductions, statute 787.03 relates specifically to interference with custody, and 787.04 to removing children from Florida without the custodial parent’s consent. Both can lead to kidnapping charges.
Custodial interference is a third-degree felony in the state of Florida. In the event the child was removed from Florida without the permission of the custodial parent, it becomes even more dire. It is against the law to take a minor out of the state when a custody determination is pending without the consent of the other parent. If malicious intent is determined, meaning the court finds that you were acting in order to prevent the other parent from the right to custody, you could be facing third-degree felony charges. Are there legal defenses to such charges?
Defending Your Actions
In some circumstances, the court may find that you had adequate legal grounds for your actions. For example:
- You were acting to protect the child from danger;
- As a victim of domestic violence, or in fear of domestic violence, you left the state with a child, with the intent of preventing the child from exposure to violence;
- Your child ran away or otherwise instigated the action and you can demonstrate that you had no criminal intent.
You must legally report that you have a “missing” child within 10 days and must, within a reasonable time frame, then begin proceedings to establish custody in accordance with federal laws.
This type of situation is generally encumbered with high emotion and drama, and necessarily requires swift action. At the Law Office of Julia Kefalinos, our Miami criminal attorneys understand the immediacy of the circumstances, and will address the issues with deftness and competence. To discuss your situation, contact our office today.