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Legal defenses to kidnapping charges

Massachusetts law outlines many scenarios that may be considered kidnapping, each requiring different facts to be established and elements to be proven. Accordingly, the legal defenses to a charge of kidnapping will depend on the nature and circumstances of the alleged crime.

A previous blog post discussed some of the different actions that constitute kidnapping in Massachusetts and the potential legal consequences for each upon conviction. This post will examine some of the legal defenses that can reduce penalties or mitigate punishment for those accused.

The most common defense to a charge of kidnapping is consent. Kidnapping in Massachusetts is defined as the taking and confining, without authority, of another person against their will. If the alleged victim consented, then they were not taken against their will and the alleged crime cannot be defined as kidnapping.

Another defense is lack of intent. Certain types of kidnapping, such as kidnapping with the intent to extort money or kidnapping with the intent to cause the alleged victim to be secretly confined, require the accused to have a certain state of mind. The accused must prove that they did not possess this particular "mens rea" in order for this legal defense to be successful.

Certain aggravating factors - for example, the use of a deadly weapon during a kidnapping - carry mandatory punishments. Anyone who commits such aggravated kidnapping and inflicts serious bodily injury or commits sexual assault will be subject to no less than 25 years in state prison. Under those circumstances, no legal defense may be successfully asserted.

Whether a legal defense to kidnapping can or should be claimed depends heavily on the specific circumstances of the case. Because of the complicated nature of kidnapping and its status as one of the most serious federal crimes, those accused face many potential pitfalls that may be best navigated with the help of an experienced attorney.

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