What are Possible Defenses to Kidnapping Charges?

February 11, 2021

Kidnapping is a serious crime in all states and at the federal level. Typically, it is a crime where either a person is removed from one place and transported to another against their will, or the person is confined to an isolated place against their will. In all instances, kidnapping is a serious felony offense, resulting in a significant prison sentence.

Federal kidnapping involves a victim being transported across state lines and can result in a prison sentence in excess of 20 years. A parent illegally transporting their child internationally can result in a prison sentence of up to three years.

States vary in how kidnapping is charged and prosecuted. In Pennsylvania, prosecutors need to establish elements of the crime. Unlawful kidnapping means a person was removed or confined by force, threat, or deception. Prosecutors must also establish the intent of the kidnapper as well. The maximum penalty for kidnapping in Pennsylvania is 20 years in prison and $25,000 in fines.

Defenses to a charge of kidnapping can be factual or procedural. An accused may have the charges downgraded or dismissed if an adequate defense can be raised. Below are some typical defenses to kidnapping.


The primary defense to kidnapping involves challenging whether or not the victim provided consent. A person willingly entering a vehicle with another, even if after a while they want to leave, has not been kidnapped. However, if they are not permitted to leave the vehicle after requesting to leave, then a charge of kidnapping can still be established.

False Claims

A derivative defense to consent is when a purported victim has made false claims. An example would be if the distance a person is removed is very small.  Also, if no force, threat, or deception was used, then a charge of kidnapping would not be sustainable.

Procedural Challenges

Charging a person with a crime requires gathering enough evidence to establish that a crime has been committed. Arresting officers, detectives, and the like must acquire evidence lawfully. Sometimes, this involves seeking a search warrant before entering a dwelling or vehicle. If the warrant was not sought first or if it was flawed in some way, then there may have been a violation of the accused’s Fourth Amendment right against unlawful search and seizure. This flaw could be serious enough to enable a defense lawyer to agree to a plea bargain or a dismissal of the case.

Anyone facing kidnapping charges should understand the charges being made against them. Consulting a lawyer familiar with criminal law is a wise option.

West Chester Criminal Defense Lawyers at the Law Offices of Heather J. Mattes Protect the Accused Against Kidnapping Charges

Selecting a criminal defense lawyer is a very important step in addressing serious criminal charges. If you have been charged with kidnapping, a West Chester criminal defense lawyer at the Law Offices of Heather J. Mattes can help. We are dedicated to providing experienced and zealous representation to our clients. Complete our online form or call 610-431-7900 for a free consultation. Located in West Chester, Pennsylvania, we serve clients throughout Chester County, Bucks County, Delaware County, Lehigh County, Montgomery County, and Philadelphia County.

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