Kidnapping for Extortion or Ransom
Section 209(a) of the California Penal Code makes it a crime to seize, confine, conceal, or hold a person for ransom or reward, or to commit extortion to obtain money or other valuable property from another. Asportation or movement of the victim is not required, and a good faith belief in right to ransom money is no defense to kidnapping for ransom.1 Section 209(a) describes four types of aggravated kidnapping: (a) for ransom; (b) for reward; (c) to commit extortion; and (d) to exact from another money or a valuable thing. The crime of extortion does not require that the fruits of the extortion be obtained from a third party.
Extortion is obtaining property from another, with his consent, or obtaining an official act of a public officer, through the use or fear, or under color of official right.
Kidnapping by extortion is committed when a person is forced to pay money for the return of their property. The crime does not require that the person extorted be someone other than the kidnapped victim.2
It is unnecessary to prove that the kidnaper intended to commit extortion at the time of the original abduction or taking of the person kidnapped. That extortion became a purpose of the abduction at some point is enough, and during the kidnapping the perpetrator, holds or detains his victim by fear or threats of force.
To commit extortion, there is no illegal taking necessary, extortion is obtaining property or something from another with that person's consent, through threats of force or fear.3
The victim's lack of consent is an element of kidnapping for ransom, as is the lack of the defendant's reasonable belief in consent. 4
Unlike kidnapping for robbery, kidnapping for extortion or ransom does not require forced movement or asportation of the victim. 5
A good faith belief by a person they may ransom money is no defense to kidnapping for ransom.6 However, consent or a reasonable belief that a person consented to give the ransom money to the accused is a defense.
The sentence for committing the crime is life in prison with the possibility of parole.7
The statute provides for increased punishment for death or bodily harm, or intentional confinement that exposes the victim “to a substantial likelihood of death.”8 Here, the punishment becomes imprisonment for life without the possibility of parole. 9
The bodily harm needs not be intentional, nor is it required that the harm be caused by a separate criminal intent where the harm is incidental to the kidnapping.10
If probation is granted, the court must require a 12-month county jail term as a condition of probation, unless the court finds under the interests of justice, it is unnecessary.11
2 People v. Superior Court (Deardorf) (1986) 183 C.A.3d 509, 513, 228 C.R. 137; People v. Ibrahim (1993) 19 C.A.4th 1692, 1696, 24 C.R.2d 269; People v. Kozlowski (2002) 96 C.A.4th 853, 870, 117 C.R.2d 504.