What is Kidnapping?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 15 February 2020
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Kidnapping is a crime in which someone takes someone else without his or her consent and holds that person in a concealed location. The laws surrounding this crime are nebulous in some regions of the world and it can be a difficult crime to define. Kidnapping is taken extremely seriously because it is viewed as an especially dreaded crime. Many law enforcement agencies have task forces which specifically focus on kidnapping.

When people commit kidnapping, they usually do so with intent to achieve a goal such as obtaining a ransom, forcing someone to do something, using the kidnapped person as a shield, or demanding a political concession of some kind. Sometimes, it may occur because the captor wants to retain the kidnapped individual and there have been cases in which abducted individuals have been held for a decade or more by their captors. It can also occur in association with crimes like robbery, rape, and murder.


Kidnapping is a problem in some regions of the world where roving gangs snatch people, especially tourists, and hold them for ransom payouts. In these regions, extreme poverty and the inability to find work may drive people to committing crimes in order to make a living, and kidnapping can also be used as a tool by rival political groups and gangs. It also occurs in the context of child custody disputes, when a parent who does not have custody takes a child. Even if the child is consenting, it is deemed kidnapping because the parent with custody does not consent.

It is not uncommon to see aggravating circumstances involved in a kidnapping case. In these cases, the kidnapper commits other crimes in connection with the abduction which increase the severity of the crime. When kidnappers are tried, they can be charged with a number of crimes associated with the kidnapping and may face lengthy prison sentences if they are convicted on all counts. In nations with the death penalty, kidnappers may be sentenced to death, especially if they also committed murder.

The specifics of the laws on abduction vary from region to region. This crime is often distinguished from false imprisonment by the transportation aspect and by the fact that the kidnapper attempts to hide the victim, in addition to holding the victim without consent. Thus, a home invasion in which the robber tired up the residents of the home and did not allow them to leave or call for help would be considered false imprisonment, but if the robbers took a child from the house and hid the child in an offsite location, this would be kidnapping.


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