Despite constituting a federal crime, kidnapping is primarily prosecuted at the state level unless the kidnapping crosses state lines. Kidnapping laws in Massachusetts are complex and outline potential legal consequences for many different scenarios.
In Massachusetts, kidnapping is defined as the taking and confining, without authority, of another person against their will. Courts take several factors into account in determining what punishment will be imposed upon conviction, including the age of the person who was kidnapped, the relationship between the kidnapper and the victim and whether the kidnapper was armed with a deadly weapon.
If the person kidnapped was a child under the age of 16, a conviction can result in up to 15 years state imprisonment except when a parent takes custody of their child who is less than 18 years old. In that case, a one year prison sentence and a fine of up to $1,000 may be imposed. If the child is taken out of the state or their safety is endangered, then the potential penalties are raised to $5,000 and five years’ imprisonment.
When deadly weapons are used during a kidnapping, it will fall under the category of aggravated kidnapping. Increased punishment will be imposed upon anyone who commits the crime of kidnapping while armed with a deadly weapon. Convictions for aggravated kidnapping can result in up to ten years state imprisonment if the kidnapper was armed with a firearm, rifle, shotgun, machine gun or assault weapon.
When a deadly weapon is used with the intent to extort money, a mandatory 20 year prison sentence will be imposed. If the kidnapper was armed with a deadly weapon and inflicted serious bodily injury or sexual assault was committed, they will be subject to a 25 year prison sentence.
Kidnapping is one of the most complicated federal crimes, with many factors to consider given the state and federal laws. Especially in light of the serious punishments and penalties, those facing kidnapping charges will need to be prepared with a strong defense that highlights the favorable circumstances of their particular case. A future post will discuss the possible legal defenses to kidnapping that can reduce or mitigate punishment.