Kidnapping is one of the most serious crimes in Colorado. It is also the type of crime that someone can commit without knowing just how serious the legal implications are. For example, everyone is aware that murder will likely result in a life prison sentence. However, most people are surprised to learn that a conviction for First Degree Kidnapping carries a life sentence if there was any bodily injury to the victim. In Colorado, bodily injury can be as slight as pain. The example you will find below will illustrate how easy it is to commit First Degree Kidnapping, resulting in a life prison sentence. It is prudent to have representation when facing any criminal charge, especially felony charges. It is absolutely essential to have an experienced criminal defense attorney if you are facing any form of kidnapping charge.
First Degree Kidnapping
A person commits First Degree Kidnapping if they:
- Forcibly carry a person from one place to another, or
- Persuade a person to go from one place to another, or
- Imprison a person
And, along with any one of those three acts above…
Do so with the intent to force the victim to make any concession or give up anything of value.
Thus, if you pick someone up and move them from one side of the room to the other, and tell them that you will only let them leave if they give you their car keys, you have committed First Degree Kidnapping. If the victim says that they felt pain when you picked them up and carried them across the room, you have committed the class 1 felony variety of Kidnapping, and the minimum sentence you can receive is life in prison. As mentioned above, nowhere in the criminal law is it easier to underestimate the implications of your actions.
If the victim does not suffer injury (which includes feeling pain), then First Degree Kidnapping is a class 2 felony, carrying a possible prison term of 24 years, or 48 years if the judge finds there to be extraordinary aggravating circumstances.
Movement of the Victim
Some Colorado case law specifically sets forth that there is no minimum distance that a person must be “carried” in order for there to be a finding of guilt. The case law states that “any movement, however short in distance” is sufficient under the law. However, this appear to be at odds with People v. Bell, 809 P.2d 1026 (Colo. App. 1990) which held that the necessary element of “movement” is not satisfied (meaning there should be a not guilty verdict) when the victim “is forced to move from his living room to his bedroom at gunpoint.” Other Colorado cases have suggested that the distance is not the issue, but rather what matters is whether there was any “movement which substantially increases risk of harm to the victim.”
Second Degree Kidnapping; Class 4 Felony
Second Degree Kidnapping is essentially the same as First Degree, except that to be guilty, it is not necessary that the defendant intended to obtain a concession or anything of value in order to release the victim. A person has committed Second Degree Kidnapping if they knowingly carry any person, without consent, from one place to another. A less common form of this crime is committed when a person lures a minor, age 17 or under, away from their parent with the intent to sell the child.
Second Degree Kidnapping is a class 4 felony. However, a variety of circumstances can increase the seriousness of the offense:
Second Degree Kidnapping; Class 3 Felony
Second Degree Kidnapping is increased in seriousness to a class 3 felony if the defendant intended to sell the victim, or if the defendant used a deadly weapon during the commission of the crime.
In cases where possession of a deadly weapon is involved, the weapon does not even have to be real. A fake weapon that caused the victim to believe that the defendant possessed a deadly weapon in sufficient to satisfy the statute. In fact, if the defendant merely tells the victim that they are in possession of a deadly weapon, even when they are not, they can be found guilty of the class 3 felony variety of Kidnapping. In a case like this, the prosecution would have to prove that the defendant’s statement that they were in possession of a deadly weapon is what allowed the defendant to successfully accomplish the commission of the crime.
Anyone convicted of the class 3 felony variety of Second Degree Kidnapping faces a mandatory eight-year prison sentence. Even if the defendant has no prior criminal convictions, and the judge wishes to be lenient, the judge has no power to not impose at least eight years in the Colorado Department of Corrections.
Second Degree Kidnapping; Class 2 Felony
Kidnapping in the second degree is increased in seriousness even further, to a class 2 felony, if the kidnapper commits sexual assault or robbery against the victim. A conviction for such a crime carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 16 years in prison.