Extortion by posing as a kidnapper applies in a situation, where the defendant poses as the person who has either kidnapped the victim or who has aided and abetted another person who has kidnapped the victim for the purpose of receiving ransom or reward, or to extort or exact from any person any money or thing of value.
This penal code section also applies to a situation where the defendant poses as someone who has the authority to obtain the release of the kidnapped victim whether or not he/she was the one who kidnapped the victim1.
Definition of Extortion by Posing as a Kidnapper
California Penal Code section 210 applies when a person poses as someone who is either the kidnapper or someone who aided and abetted a kidnapper, or as someone who has the authority to obtain release of the kidnapped victim.
The defendant’s purpose for doing so is to obtain:
- Ransom or money award, or
- To extort something of value.
The defendant usually uses force or fear to compel another person to give them money or something of value in safe return of the kidnapped victim.
Mark kidnapped Sam, a 5 year-old boy, who wondered off from his mother at a grocery store.
Having spotted the mother’s car in the parking lot, Mark left a note on the windshield of the car, instructing the mother to call his phone number if she wants her son to be returned.
When she called the number, Mark told her to meet him and exchange a ransom amount for her son.
Mark can be charged with “aggravated kidnapping,” because he kidnapped Sam for the purpose of obtaining ransom.
How Does The Prosecutor Prove Extortion by Posing as a Kidnapper?
To prove that the defendant is guilty of extortion by posing as a kidnapper under Penal Code section 210, the prosecution must prove the following facts or elements:1
- The defendant posed as, or claimed to be, someone who kidnapped, or aided and abetted someone who kidnapped the victim, or as someone who has the power to obtain the release of the kidnapped victim:
- The defendant acted for the purpose of obtaining either ransom or reward, or to accomplish the act of extortion2
Larry telephoned Joe and Vivian first thing in the morning and claimed that he has kidnapped their daughter Susan before she could get to school, seeking a ransom amount for her safe return by lunchtime.
Terrified by the prospect of Susan being hurt, they did not call the school to verify that Susan was in fact kidnapped. Joe put the money in an envelope and dropped it off at the designated safety deposit box.
In reality, Larry never actually kidnapped Susan and at the end of the day, Susan returned home safely on the school bus.
In this situation, even though Larry never kidnapped Susan, he can be charged with the offense because he claimed that he kidnapped her.
Who Can Be Charged With Extortion by Posing as a Kidnapper?
A defendant can be charged with the offense without actually having kidnapped anyone, because this Penal Code section will apply to anyone who has merely posed as or pretended to be the kidnapper, or as the person who has aided or abetted a kidnapper, or as someone who has the power to release the victim.
Moreover, if the defendant actually kidnapped the victim, he/she will face more serious consequences, because kidnapping for the purpose of collecting ransom or reward, or for extortion is considered to be “aggravated kidnapping,” which is a felony for which the defendant can face life imprisonment.
How Can You Fight Extortion by Posing as a Kidnapper Charges?
There are various defenses that can be asserted on your behalf to fight a charge of extortion by posing as a kidnapper charges. Here are the most common ones:
- You Acted Upon a Good Faith Believe that You Could Rescue the Victim: If the defendant, in good faith, believes that he/she can rescue any person who has been kidnapped, and the defendant had no part in the kidnapping, the defendant can offer to rescue or obtain the release of such person for a monetary consideration or other thing of value without being charged with this offense. 3
- False Accusation/Victim of Mistaken Identity: If you were falsely accused of the crime or were a victim of mistaken identity theft, you cannot be convicted of the crime.
What Are The Penalties, Punishment And Sentencing Guidelines For Extortion by Posing as a Kidnapper?
Extortion by posing as a kidnapper is a felony for which a defendant can face imprisonment for two, three or four years.4
Aggravated Kidnapping: Aggravated Kidnapping pursuant to Pen. Code §208(b) involves kidnapping that takes place during the commission of another crime, such robbery, extortion, or rape. To establish “aggravated kidnapping,” the prosecutor has to establish that defendant intended to commit the underlying crime while moving the victim. “Aggravated kidnapping” will result in a more severe punishment under California law. Specifically, the kidnapping is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for five, eight, or eleven years. 5
Example: A man kidnapped his ex-girlfriend with the intent to obtain a money ransom from her husband. The man will be charged with aggravated kidnapping as long as a prosecutor can prove that the man had specific intent to obtain the ransom.
California Kidnapping laws under Penal Code section 207 define kidnapping as moving another person a substantial distance by using “force or fear,” and doing so without the person’s consent. 6
Attempted Kidnapping: Even if you did not complete the offense of kidnapping, you can still be charged with the lesser offense of attempted kidnapping during the commission of a kidnapping.
False Imprisonment: False imprisonment under the California Penal Code section 236 is the unlawful violation of the personal liberty of another. It could be a lesser included offense of kidnapping if there is an unlawful restraint of a child. ((See Pen. Code, §§ 236, 237; People v. Magana (1991) 230 Cal.App.3d 1117, 1121 [281 Cal.Rptr. 338].))
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- Penal Code 210 [↩] [↩]
- “Extortion” is the obtaining of property from another, with his consent, or the obtaining of an official act of a public officer, induced by a wrongful use of force or fear, or under color of official right. Penal Code Section 518. [↩]
- California Penal Code 210 [↩]
- Penal Code 210 pc [↩]
- See Pen. Code §208(b). [↩]
- Penal Code 207 [↩]