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Pennsylvania Kidnapping Laws

Overview of Pennsylvania Kidnapping Laws

According to Pennsylvania criminal law, a person commits the crime of kidnapping in one of two ways. First, kidnapping occurs when a person "unlawfully removes another a substantial distance under the circumstances" from the place where he or she is found. Whether the victim has been removed a "substantial distance" is determined on a case-by-case basis. However, the requirement is generally satisfied where the distance imposed isolates the victim and exposes him or her to an increased risk of harm, and is not merely incidental to commission of another crime necessarily involving movement or force, such as robbery.

Alternatively, a person is guilty of kidnapping when he or she "unlawfully confines another for a substantial period in a place of isolation." Like the determination of "substantial distance," the victim's confinement for a "substantial period" is also an individualized inquiry, and may depend on the victim's mental state. However, the victim need not be left alone in order to be confined in "a place of isolation."

A person "unlawfully" removes or confines another person when such removal or confinement is accomplished by force, threat or deception, or without the consent of the person's parent, guardian or other person responsible for general supervision of his or her welfare, when the victim is under the age of 14 years or an incapacitated person.

Below are additional details about Pennsylvania's kidnapping laws:

Statute Pennsylvania Statutes Section 18-2901
Intent Required for Conviction

The defendant had the intent to:

  • (a) hold the victim for ransom or reward, or as a shield or hostage;
  • (b) facilitate commission of any felony or flight thereafter;
  • (c) inflict bodily injury on or terrorize the victim or another person; or
  • (d) interfere with a public official's performance of any governmental or political function.
Penalties Charged as a 1st degree felony (prison sentence of up to 20 years).

The defendant's intent to inflict bodily harm on the victim or another person will not be negated if he or she does not actually inflict bodily harm on such person.

In Pennsylvania, a parent may be convicted of kidnapping his or her own child. Certain other states generally do not recognize such convictions.


  • Lack of intent
  • Consent of kidnapped person or his or her parent or legal guardian
  • Insanity

Penalties and Sentences

Pennsylvania criminal law classifies kidnapping as a felony of the first degree. Convictions for such felonies are punishable by a sentence of imprisonment of up to 20 years. The court may also impose a fine which is the greater of up to $25,000 or any higher amount consisting of double the defendant's gain from commission of the crime.

Where the kidnapping results in personal injury or actual bodily harm to the victim, the court must order the defendant to make full restitution to the victim, regardless of the defendant's current financial resources, "so as to provide the victim with the fullest compensation for the loss."

The court will specify the amount and method of restitution at the time of sentencing and, in making such determination, will consider the extent of injury suffered by the victim, the victim's request for restitution as presented to the district attorney, and other matters as it deems appropriate.

Note: State laws are constantly changing -- please contact a Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Pennsylvania Criminal Laws Related Resources

Get Legal Help with Your Kidnapping Case in Pennsylvania

Most instances of kidnapping are carried out by close relatives, often noncustodial parents after a divorce. But this also means miscommunication between the parents can lead to a misunderstanding of intentions. Whatever the case, defendants have the right to seek counsel in all criminal actions. If you've been charged with violating Pennsylvania kidnapping laws, it's in your best interest to consult with a local criminal defense attorney to find out how the laws apply to your case and to get help crafting a defense.

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