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District of Columbia Kidnapping Laws

Traditionally, kidnapping was defined as the forcible asportation (carrying away) of the victim to another country. However, most modern statutory definitions are broader in scope and emphasize the involuntary aspect of the seizure or confinement. Kidnapping is a major crime and is punished very harshly throughout the United States. For instance, in Washington, D.C., a kidnapping conviction can lead to a 30-year prison sentence.

The Felony Murder Rule

One reason that kidnapping is such a serious crime is because of the high risk of harm or death to the victim. Because of this, D.C. law categorizes "kidnapping" as one of the felony murder offenses. This means that if you commit a kidnapping and the victim dies during or shortly after you've committed the kidnapping (even if the death is unintentional or caused by someone else), then you can be charged with murder in the first degree.

District of Columbia Kidnapping Laws at a Glance

Being aware of the specifics of statutory provisions is essential in any legal area, but it is especially significant when you're dealing with criminal matters. The following chart is designed to help you make sense of the law by removing the jargon and presenting the content in a straight-forward manner. Read on for key information about Washington, D.C.'s kidnapping laws.


What's Prohibited



  • Aiding or abetting in,
  • Seizing,
  • Confining,
  • Enticing,
  • Decoying,
  • Kidnapping,
  • Abducting,
  • Concealing, or carrying away any individual by any means whatsoever, and
  • Holding or detaining, or
  • With the intent to hold or detain the individual for ransom or reward.


  • If 2 or more individuals enter into any agreement or conspiracy to do any of the prohibited acts, and
  • 1 or more of the individuals does any act that affects the agreement or conspiracy or is otherwise related to fulfilling the agreement, each of the individuals will be in violation of the law and can be charged.

Custodial Interference

A parent or anyone acting on the directions of the parent can't intentionally conceal a child from the child's other parent, and

No relative of any person taking directions from the relative who knows that another person is the lawful custodian of a child may:

  • Abduct, take or carry away a child with the intent to prevent custodial parent from exercising their custody rights; or
  • Abduct, take or carry away a child from a person with whom the relative has joint custody pursuant to a court order or judgment with the intent to prevent a legal custodian from exercising their custody rights.

Possible Penalties

Imprisonment of up to 30 years. There is an exception for cases involving a parent and their minor child.

Related Offense

  • Murder in the first degree: D.C. Code Section 22-2101

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

District of Columbia Kidnapping Laws: Related Resources

Discuss Your Kidnapping Case with a D.C. Attorney

Because kidnapping in Washington, D.C. is a felony, a conviction of this crime can result in costly fines and/or prison time. Whenever you're facing charges of this magnitude, you don't want to proceed without professional legal help. Get in touch with a skilled criminal defense attorney who can assist with evidence gathering and strategic planning to help you fight the charges and present your defense.

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