Child Abduction Law in California

Sec 278 of the California Penal Code defines the crime of child abduction. This crime is committed when an individual steals a child away from their parent or legal guardian. The reason for this law is to protect the parents from the injuries sustained when their child is taken from them. As such, the crime is a crime against the parent and not against the child.

The following are the elements of the crime of child abduction:

  1. An individual took, enticed away, kept, withheld or concealed a child or any individual under the age of 18 years;
  2. the individual who did the act did not have the right of custody over the child;
  3. The individual specifically intended to detain or conceal the child from their lawful custodian;

The said act needs to be done with malicious intent, meaning there was intent to annoy or injure another or there was clear intent to commit a wrongful act. In this crime, the accused would lure or lead the child away to be able to prevent the child’s return to its parent or lawful guardian.

This crime is considered as a wobbler offense and may be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony offense depending on the circumstances of the case and the individual’s criminal history. If the crime is prosecuted as a misdemeanor offense, the imposable penalty is up to one year in county prison and payment of a fine up to $1,000. If the crime is prosecuted as a felony offense, the imposable penalties include probation and imprisonment of up to one year in county jail or up to four years in state prison and payment of fines up to $10,000.

An accessory penalty would be restitution of costs for the prosecuting agency or the victim’s parents or guardian. If the abduction was done in violation of a custody order by the courts, then Sec 278.5 of the California Penal Code would apply. In fine, the circumstances of the case would determine the applicability of mitigating or aggravating circumstances to enhance the penalties applicable.

The crime of child abduction is a serious offense in California. Should you be or know anyone facing any of these charges, do reach out to the lawyers at the Law Offices of Ramiro J. Lluis for a free consultation today.