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The Crime of Kidnapping

Washington State law classifies kidnapping into 2 categories: 1st degree and 2nd degree kidnapping.

  • Kidnapping in the 1st Degree

RCW 9A.40.020 defines 1st degree kidnapping as “intentionally abducts another person with intent” of any of the following:

  • To hold that person for ransom or as a hostage ;
  • To commit a felony crime;
  • To inflict injury or harm on the victim;
  • To inflict mental distress on the victim or on another person;
  • To interfere with the performance of any governmental function.

Kidnapping in the 1st degree is a Class A felony punishable by a 20 year to life imprisonment and a $50,000 fine. Kidnapping in the 1st degree is considered a "violent crime" because it is usually committed in conjunction with other criminal acts such as assault in the 1st or 2nd degree, torture, or murder.

  • Kidnapping in the 2nd Degree

RCW 9A.40.030 defines kidnapping in the 2nd degree when one intentionally abducts another person under circumstances other than first degree kidnapping. Kidnapping in the 2nd degree is a Class B felony punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment and a $20,000 fine. However, a 2nd degree kidnapping with a sexual motivation is a Class A felony punishable with the same penalties as a 1st degree kidnapping.

it is an affirmative defense to a 2nd degree kidnapping charge if it is "established by the defendant by a preponderance of the evidence" that:

  • the abduction does not include the use of or intent to use or threat to use deadly force;
  • the actor is a relative of the person abducted;
  • The actor's sole intent is to assume custody of that person (ie. a child).

Kidnapping and Domestic Violence

According to Washington law, kidnapping can also be charged as a domestic violence crime. RCW 10.99.020 states allows for both types of kidnapping to be considered domestic violence if they involve individuals who share a family or romantic relationship. This can be any type of close relationship such as spouses, ex-spouses, grandparents, child and parents, boyfriends, girlfriends, siblings and more.

Kidnapping Children

While most people do not realize that taking their own child constitutes "kidnapping," the crime of "custodial interference" is charged when a parent or relative takes a child away from the person with lawful custody- even if you yourself is a biological parent.

  • Custodial Interference in the 1st Degree
  • Custodial Interference in the 2nd Degree

You are guilty of custodial interference in the 1st degree if it is found that you: intended to hold the child "permanently or for a protracted period," exposed the child to risks, or took him or her out of state. Additional factors apply depending on what court orders were in effect on the subject of custody and visitation. Custodial Interference in the First Degree is a class C felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. See RCW 9A.40.060.

You are guilty of custodial interference in the 1st degree if it is found that you: detain a child with the intent of denying access to the other parent that has lawful custody. It does not matter how long you kept the child. Custodial Interference in the Second Degree is charged as a gross misdemeanor for the first offense, but the second or subsequent conviction of custodial interference in the second degree is a class C felony. See RCW 9A.40.070.

Kidnapping and Unlawful Imprisonment

It is easy to confuse kidnapping with the crime of unlawful imprisonment because both crimes require an actor to knowingly restrain another person against their will. As such, it is not uncommon for both charges to be added on by prosecutors. A person is guilty of unlawful imprisonment if s/he "knowingly restrains another person." See RCW 9A.40.040.

Unlike kidnapping which requires the act of abduction, you may be guilty of unlawful imprisonment just by keeping someone in their own home against their will, without ever removing them to another location. Unlawful Imprisonment is a Class C felony punishable by up to 5 years imprisonment and a $10,000 fine.

Let My Extensive Experience as a Former Prosecutor Work For You."

In kidnapping situations, especially with those involving minor children, prosecutors have a tendancy to "overcharge." Kidnapping charges are difficult to fight even if you believe you are innocent. Moreover a conviction of a felony has the potential to ruin your job prospects, housing options, and your life. Seattle criminal defense lawyer Steve Karimi has been zealously defending those wrongfully accused of a crime for decades. Contact criminal defense attorney Steve Karimi at 206-660-6200 and schedule a free initial consultation today.  All consultations are confidential.

Contact Us

If you were arrested or a loved one has been charged with a crime in Seattle or surrounding areas of Washington State, the Law Offices of Steve Karimi can help. Call 206-660-6200 24 hours a day for a free consultation.

Seattle Defense Lawyer

Named a "rising star" in criminal defense by Washington Law and Politics magazine, Mr. Karimi is a former prosecutor for King County who uses his insight into prosecution strategies to protect his clients' rights in criminal court.