kidnapping, in law, the taking away of a person by force, threat, or deceit, with intent to cause him to be detained against his will. Kidnapping may be done for ransom or for political or other purposes. A parent whose legal rights to custody of a child have been revoked can be guilty of the crime for taking the child. Consent of a kidnapped person is a defense, unless given by one legally incompetent at the time (e.g., a minor or a mentally ill person). The crime differs from abduction, in that the intent of sexual intercourse is not required, and from false imprisonment, in which there is no attempt to abduct.

Under common law kidnapping was only a misdemeanor, but in most states of the United States it is now punishable by death or life imprisonment if there are no extenuating circumstances. The kidnapping and murder of the son of Charles A. Lindbergh in 1932 led to a federal statute prescribing severe penalties for transporting the victims of kidnapping across state or national boundaries. The practice of kidnapping, in the wider and not strictly legal sense, has been known since the beginnings of history. It was common as a method for procuring slaves, and it has also been employed by brigands and revolutionaries to obtain money through ransom or to hold hostages whose safe release was dependent on the freeing of political prisoners.

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2018, The Columbia University Press.

Kidnapping: Selected full-text books and articles

Ransom Kidnapping in America, 1874-1974: The Creation of a Capital Crime By Ernest Kahlar Alix Southern Illinois University Press, 1978
Kidnapping Federalism: The Constitutionality of Extending Federal Criminal Law into the States By Scott, M. Todd Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, Vol. 93, No. 2-3, Spring 2003
Liability, Responsibility and Blame: British Ransom Victims in the Mediterranean Periphery, 1860-81 By Blinkhorn, Martin The Australian Journal of Politics and History, Vol. 46, No. 3, September 2000
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Dictionary of Terrorism By John Richard Thackrah Routledge, 2004 (2nd edition)
Librarian's tip: "Kidnapping" begins on p. 152
Terrorism and Guerrilla Warfare: Forecasts and Remedies By Richard Clutterbuck Routledge, 1990
Librarian's tip: "Kidnapping" begins on p. 177
All Our Families: New Policies for a New Century By Mary Ann Mason; Arlene Skolnick; Stephen D. Sugarman Oxford University Press, 1998
Librarian's tip: Chap. 7 "A Sign of Family Disorder? Changing Representations of Parental Kidnapping"
War on Crime: Bandits, G-Men, and the Politics of Mass Culture By Claire Bond Potter Rutgers University Press, 1998
Librarian's tip: Chap. Five "'Another Roosevelt Victory in This War against the Underworld': Kidnapping, Federal Policing, and the Role of the Public in the War on Crime"
J. Edgar Hoover and His G-Men By William B. Breuer Praeger Publishers, 1995
Librarian's tip: Chap. 5 "The Man Who Planned to Kidnap Babe Ruth"
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