Saturday, August 16, 2008

Parental Kidnapping and Amber Alerts - Crockefeller Provides Teachable Moment

Since the case of Crockefeller (the man who most recently called himself "Clark Rockefeller" and who apparently has used numerous other names since coming to this country from Germany as Christian Gerhartsreiter) has begun to dominate the news, several people have asked me how a father can be charged with kidnapping his own son. (Whatever this man's identity, there is no question that he is the father of the child he took away during a supervised visit in Boston.) My previous posts on this case are here (right after the arrest in Baltimore) and then here(Crockefeller, His Lawyer and the Media).

I respond that parents can indeed "kidnap" their own children, and there are "parental kidnapping" laws which make it a crime for parents to kidnap their own children, such as the Massachusetts law, Chapter M.G.L. 265, Section 26A ("Kidnapping of minor or incompetent by relative")under which Crockefeller has been charged:

Whoever, being a relative of a child less than eighteen years old, without lawful authority, holds or intends to hold such a child permanently or for a protracted period, or takes or entices such a child from his lawful custodian, or takes or entices from lawful custody any incompetent person or other person entrusted by authority of law to the custody of another person or institution shall be punished by imprisonment in the house of correction for not more than one year or by a fine of up to one thousand dollars, or both. Whoever commits any offense described in this section by taking or holding said child outside the commonwealth or under circumstances which expose the person taken or enticed from lawful custody to a risk which endangers his safety shall be punished by a fine of not more than five thousand dollars, or by imprisonment in the state prison for not more than five years, or by both such fine and imprisonment.

Some of the confusion may be the result of Crockefeller's lawyer's initial reported statements casting doubt on the viability of the kidnapping charge. In response, the Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly Blog then issued a post on the criminal statute and case law interpreting it to explain how parents who take or hold children in violation of a valid custody order can indeed be charged, and convicted, of parental kidnapping.

Now I have just read another excellent post, with some good links to other informative sites, at the Updates in Michigan Family Law Blog, by Jeanne Hannah, an attorney with a lot of experience with parental kidnapping cases; her blog discusses the Crockefeller case, amber alerts and parental kidnapping: Amber Alerts-When Are They Used?

For information about Massachusetts divorce and family law, see the divorce and family law page of my law firm website, and for information about Massachusetts criminal law, see the criminal defense page.

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