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Kidnapping is a crime under both state and federal law. Although both charges are serious, federal offenses tend to be prosecuted much more aggressively and have harsher consequences. Having the advice of an experienced federal crimes attorney can make all the difference in the outcome of a case, so if you have been charged with kidnapping, it is critical to speak with a dedicated attorney who can explain your legal options.

Federal Jurisdiction

Under both federal and state law, kidnapping is commonly defined as the:

  • Taking of an individual to a different location against his or her will; or
  • Confining of a person to a controlled space.

However, federal prosecutors only have jurisdiction over kidnapping cases when:

  • The victim was intentionally transported in interstate or foreign commerce;
  • The kidnapping took place within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the U.S.;
  • The kidnapping falls under the special aircraft jurisdiction;
  • The victim was a foreign official, an internationally protected person, or an official guest of the U.S.;
  • The victim was a federal officer or employee; and
  • The victim is a child under the age of 16 years old and was allegedly kidnapped by a parent and taken overseas.

Generally, the failure to release a victim within 24 hours after he or she was unlawfully seized or confined creates a rebuttable presumption that the person was transported in interstate commerce. However, in many cases, federal law enforcement officers can begin investigating a case before the 24 hour period has ended. Furthermore, if more than one person conspires to commit a kidnapping and either one of them takes an overt action to complete the offense, each will be punished equally. Aside from these exceptions, kidnapping cases must usually be filed in state court.


Federal criminal penalties tend to be much more severe than their state counterparts. For instance, being convicted of kidnapping a federal employee or officer can result in a life sentence. Even an attempt at violating the law can be punished by up to 20 years in prison. Furthermore, if an alleged victim is a minor, sentencing automatically becomes much harsher. For instance, a person faces a minimum of a 20 year prison sentence if the victim was under the age of 18 years old and the defendant:

  • Is 18 years of age or older; and
  • Is not a parent, grandparent, sibling, aunt, uncle, or someone who has legal custody of the minor.


Fortunately, there are a number of potential defenses to kidnapping charges, including that:

  • The alleged victim consented to being moved or agreed to accompany the defendant;
  • The defendant is related to the alleged victim;
  • The defendant did not intend to hold the person against his or her will; and
  • The defendant is the victim of mistaken identity.

Call an Experienced Federal Crimes Attorney

To speak with a Florida attorney who is well-versed in federal criminal law, please contact Jeffrey S. Weiner, P.A., Criminal Defense Attorneys by calling (305) 670-9919 today. We will begin working on your case immediately.



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