No criminal charge should be taken lightly, especially if that criminal charge is related to kidnapping. The authorities in the state of Florida aggressively prosecute defendants who are accused of kidnapping. If you are convicted of this crime, you could face a number of different serious penalties.

When can you face criminal charges for kidnapping in this state? How can a Tampa criminal defense attorney help you fight these charges? Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions and more.

How Does the Law Define Kidnapping in Florida?

Every state has its own laws regarding kidnapping. In Florida, a person commits the crime of kidnapping if they forcibly, secretly, or by threat confining, abducting, or imprisoning another person against their will and without authority to do so with the intent to:

  • Hold the victim as a hostage, use as a shield, or attempt to get a ransom or reward
  • Commit or aid the commission of any felony crime
  • Cause bodily harm, terrorize the victim, or terrorize another person
  • Interrupt or interfere with a political or government-related function

If you engage in any of these activities, you can be charged with kidnapping in Florida.

Is Kidnapping A Felony or Misdemeanor in Florida?

Kidnapping is considered one of the most serious crimes that a person can commit. For this reason, it is classified as a first degree felony crime. If you are convicted of first degree felony kidnapping, you could face life in prison in addition to thousands of dollars in fines.

There’s no doubt that first degree felony kidnapping charges are serious. However, if certain aggravating circumstances are present, the charge is increased to a life felony, which is even more severe than a first degree felony.

You may face life felony charges if you are accused of kidnapping a child under the age of 13 and while kidnapping the child, you also commit one or more of these crimes:

  • Aggravated child abuse
  • Sexual battery against the child
  • Lewd or lascivious battery, molestation, conduct, or exhibition
  • Exploitation of the child or allowing the child to be exploited
  • Prostitution involving the child
  • Human trafficking

If you are charged with life felony kidnapping charges, you could be sentenced to prison for the rest of your life without parole.

False Imprisonment vs. Kidnapping: What’s the Difference?

Both false imprisonment and kidnapping are criminal offenses in Florida. These two crimes may seem similar, but they are distinct offenses.

A person commits the crime of false imprisonment if they forcibly, by threat, or secretly confine, abduct, imprison, or restrain a victim without lawful authority and against their will. This is very similar to kidnapping. But false imprisonment does not become kidnapping unless the offender has the intent to:

  • Hold the victim as a hostage, use as a shield, or attempt to get a ransom or reward
  • Commit or aid the commission of any felony crime
  • Cause bodily harm, terrorize the victim, or terrorize another person
  • Interrupt or interfere with a political or government-related function

If the offender does not have the intent to engage in any of these actions, they will be charged with false imprisonment rather than kidnapping.

Another difference between the two criminal offenses is their classification. Kidnapping is a first degree felony, whereas false imprisonment is a third degree felony. Third degree felonies are punishable by up to five years in prison in addition to $5,000 in fines. These are serious penalties, but not nearly as severe as those that can be imposed on first degree felony kidnapping offenders.

How Can You Fight Kidnapping Charges in Florida?

Being charged with kidnapping is a nerve-wracking and frightening experience. But it’s important to remember that a charge does not always lead to a conviction. It is possible to fight kidnapping charges with the help of an attorney.

There are a number of different defense strategies that can be used to fight kidnapping charges. The strategy that is used to defend you will depend on the details of your case. Some examples of defense strategies include:

  • Mistaken identity: You were mistaken for someone else by the witness or victim who identified you
  • Misunderstanding: You may have believed you had the authority to take the victim or that the victim consented to going with you
  • No aggravating circumstances: Your attorney may be able to get the state to lower your charges by showing that no aggravating circumstances were present. This would lower your crime from a life felony to a first degree felony.
  • Lack of intent: Your attorney could also fight to show that you did not have the intent that is necessary to commit kidnapping in the state of Florida, which means you should be charged with false imprisonment rather than kidnapping. This would lower your charges from a first degree felony to a third degree felony.

Remember, the burden of proof falls on the plaintiff in a criminal case. This means it is up to the state to prove that you are guilty of kidnapping beyond a reasonable doubt. An experienced criminal defense attorney will work tirelessly to question the reliability of the state’s evidence, poke holes in the state’s case, and put doubt in the minds of the jurors.

Seek Legal Representation From An Aggressive Criminal Defense Attorney

Have you been accused of committing or charged with kidnapping? If so, it’s important to seek legal representation from an experienced criminal defense attorney at Carlson Meissner Hart & Hayslett as soon as possible. Let our attorneys review the details of your case to determine the most effective defense strategy to use to fight for your freedom. With over 125 years of combined legal experience, our criminal defense attorneys know what it takes to reach the best possible outcome in your case. Don’t hesitate to contact us immediately after your arrest.

Take the first step toward protecting your rights and fighting for your freedom today. Call our law office now to schedule a free consultation regarding your case.