The word “kidnapping” evokes the image of abducting a child, or the member of a wealthy family, and holding him or her for ransom. To be sure, kidnapping as defined in both New Jersey and federal law includes that. But, under both New Jersey and federal legislation, kidnapping includes much more.

New Jersey defines kidnapping at N.J.S. 2C:13-1 as follows:

a. Holding for ransom, reward, or as a hostage. A person is guilty of kidnapping if he unlawfully removes another from the place where he is found or if he unlawfully confines another with the purpose of holding that person for ransom or reward or as a shield or hostage.

b. Holding for other purposes. A person is guilty of kidnapping if he unlawfully removes another from his place of residence or business, or a substantial distance from the vicinity where he is found, or if he unlawfully confines another for a substantial period, with any of the following purposes:

(1) To facilitate commission of any crime or flight thereafter;

(2) To inflict bodily injury on or to terrorize the victim or another;

(3) To interfere with the performance of any governmental or political function; or

(4) To permanently deprive a parent, guardian, or other lawful custodian of custody of the victim.

Note that under New Jersey law, kidnapping does not require that the victim be removed from their original location. Merely preventing the victim from departing from wherever s/he may be constitutes kidnapping when the remaining elements of the offense are satisfied.

New Jersey crimes similar to kidnapping are criminal restraint, defined at N.J.S. 2C:13-2; and false imprisonment, defined at N.J.S. 2C:13-3. Although still a crime, criminal restraint is a less serious offense than kidnapping. False imprisonment, under New Jersey law, is not even a crime. It is, rather, a “disorderly persons offense.” A person convicted of kidnapping under New Jersey law can be sentenced to as much as imprisonment for life. By way of contrast, a conviction for false imprisonment exposes a person to jail for no more than six months. Thus persons charged with kidnapping under New Jersey law should always explore whether what they should have been charged with (if anything) is nothing more than criminal restraint or even just false imprisonment.

Allan Marain and Norman Epting are New Jersey kidnapping lawyers. Their combined experience exceeds sixty-five years. If you or a member of your family are charged, or may be charged, with kidnapping, talk to them. It could be the best decision you ever made.

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