Child Abduction | California PC 278


There are a host of laws meant to protect children in California, but maybe some of the most important are child abduction laws. These laws are meant to protect parents and children of the State, and they can apply to anyone who takes a child while they’re not the custodial parent. Those charged with this crime face some very serious consequences. For this reason, it’s vital for anyone facing these charges to understand what they are up against.

What is Child Abduction?

Child abduction law, also known as child stealing, can be a very complex issue. At heart, however, it is the malicious taking or concealing of a child by a person who has no custodial rights over that child. The only people who have custodial rights are parents who have not had their rights revoked or restricted by the courts, and those who have received custodial orders.

Child stealing is different than kidnapping in the fact that the child doesn’t actually need to be transported anywhere for the offense to have been committed. Also important to note is the fact that the statute of limitations on this crime doesn’t actually start until one of the following takes place:

a)    the child is returned

b)    the parent consents to allowing the abductor to take the child

c)     the parent legally loses their rights to the child

d)    or the child turns 18; the statute of limitations is three years in this case.

Is Child Abduction a Bailable Offense?

There are very few crimes that will result in a person being remanded to custody rather than given bail. Luckily for those charged with this crime, child abduction is not one of them. It’s important to note, however, that bail can vary greatly depending on where in California a person is charged. Every county has its own bail schedule, and a call to your nearest Bail Hotline office will narrow down this information for you promptly.

In Los Angeles County, for example, the bail amount listed in the bail schedule is $25,000. In Santa Barbara, it is $40,000. If a person uses the Internet to abduct a child in Santa Barbara, this amount jumps to $100,000. In Ventura County, child abduction brings a set bail amount of $50,000.

It’s obvious that these amounts are more than most people can handle, but in California the bail bond agencies are only allowed to charge fees of 10 percent of a person’s bail to secure their release. That means in Los Angeles County, for instance, a person could garner their release for a fee of only $2,500 (10 percent of the $25,000 bail amount). It’s imperative for a person to quickly get out of jail so they can find a good lawyer, as they will definitely need one in this case.

Penalties for Child Abduction

As with many crimes in California, child abduction is known as a “wobbler.” This means that, at the prosecutor’s discretion, the crime can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. The court will consider any mitigating (to make less severe) and aggravating (to make worse) factors when making this call.

If a person is charged with child abduction as a misdemeanor, they face up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. If, on the other hand, an individual is charged with a felony, the person could face up to four years in prison along with a $10,000 fine.
Some people may think that the aforementioned penalties are minor when considering the crime, but it’s important to recognize that these consequences are for child abduction alone. If any other crime occurs, such as the child being harmed due to reckless behavior or molestation, further charges and penalties may very well be forthcoming. 

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