Houman Fakhimi

Mother Faces Kidnapping Charges in California

Police were on the hunt for - and eventually found - a mother in northern California who reportedly kidnapped her infant daughter during a supervised visit with officials from the state's Child Protective Services.

How does a mother kidnap her own baby?

In fact, Rancho Cucamonga Criminal Defense Lawyer Houman Fakhimi knows that the vast majority of kidnappings are carried out by parents, and sometimes close relatives.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reports that nearly 800,000 children are reported missing every year, which amounts to about 2,185 children reported missing each day. Of those 800,000, about 540,000 are runaways. Next to that are family member abductions, which account for about 200,000 missing children's reports each year. Some 58,000 children are abducted by non-family members, but only about 115 of those are what we would consider a "stereotypical kidnapping." This would be an instance in which the person doesn't know the child or may have only a slight acquaintance to the child. These are instances in which the person either holds the child overnight, transports the child more than 50 miles, demands ransom, kills the child or intends to keep the child permanently.

More often than not, though, it's a parent and usually one who is involved in a separation from the other parent or a custody battle.

The center further notes these statistics with regard to family abductions:

  • 44 percent of family-abducted children are under the age of 6;
  • 53 percent of family-abducted children were taken by their biological father and 25 percent by their biological mother;
  • 46 percent were gone less than 1 week, and about 20 percent were gone for a month or more.

In the state of California, the laws governing kidnapping are found in Penal Code 207, 208, 209 and 209.5. Essentially, you can be charged if you move another person to another location without that person's consent (or if it is a child who can not give consent) by using force or fear. You can be charged with aggravated kidnapping if the individual is less than 14 years of age - even if that person is your own biological child.

You may have a legitimate legal defense if your lawyer can show that as the child's parent, you had a right to travel with your own child. However, if you don't have legal custody or if you take or conceal the child from his or her legal custodian, you can still face kidnapping charges.

In this most recent case in Stockton, custody of the child had been seized when she was born because the infant had tested positive for methamphetamine. The 31-year-old was reportedly visiting the child unsupervised while at Child Protective Services and simply walked out with the child. Officials with the agency wouldn't say exactly how it happened, but did indicate that she may have had a vehicle waiting for her, and it's not generally the policy of the agency to go after a parent trying to take their child because it puts the child in harm's way.

The mother and baby were found later that same day. The child was unharmed and the mother was arrested.