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Parental Child Abduction: California PC 277

by Shelby Wall

Understanding Parental Child Abduction

Parental child abduction is a tricky topic. Many parents may be surprised to learn they can be accused of abducting their own child.

If another person shares or has custody over your child, it is critical to understand California’s parental child abduction laws. If you have been accused of abducting a child, it is imperative to seek legal counsel.

California PC 277: Legal Implications 

California Penal Code 277, or PC 277, defines child abduction as the keeping, enticing away, withholding, concealing, or malicious taking of a child with the intent to conceal or detain the child from their legal guardian by a person who does not have a legal right to custody.

PC 277 defines the following terms:

  • Child: A person under 18 years of age.
  • Right to custody: The right to the physical care, control, and custody of the child as stated in a custody order. If there is no court order, then in concordance with the Uniform Parentage Act. The law does not consider public agencies that take protective custody of children to fall under the definition of child abduction. 
  • Withholding or keeping: Retaining physical possession of the child, regardless of whether the child protests or resists.
  • Person: Includes parents and agents of a parent
  • Court order or custody order: A permanent or temporary judgment, decree, or order issued by a court that affects the visitation or custody of a child.

Penalties for Parental Child Abduction

The penalties for parental child abduction in Orange County, California, are as follows:

  • Up to one year of imprisonment in a county jail
  • A fine of up to $1,000
  • Up to one year of imprisonment and a fine of $1,000

In certain situations, the penalties include:

  • Imprisonment for two, three, or four years
  • A fine of up to $10,000
  • Up to four years of imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000

Issues that can complicate your case and potentially result in stricter penalties include the following complicating factors:

  • Exposing the child to substantial risks of injury or illness
  • Threatening to inflict harm on the child, the child’s parent, or the child’s custodian
  • Harming or abandoning the child during the abduction
  • Taking the child outside the United States
  • Previously abducting or threatening to abduct the child
  • Substantially altering the child’s name or appearance
  • Denying the child appropriate education
  • The length of the abduction 
  • The age of the child.

The law notes that obtaining a custody order after taking a child is not an acceptable defense.

However, there are acceptable defenses that Brower Law may use to defend your case. These include the following:

  • You had a right to custody of the child and believed the child would suffer immediate injury or emotional harm if left with the other person.
  • You had a right to custody of the child, you had been a victim of domestic violence by the person possessing the child, and you believed the child would suffer immediate injury or emotional harm.
  • After abducting the child, you filed the necessary reports regarding the abduction or commenced a custody proceeding within a reasonable time.

Your Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney

If you have been accused of child abduction, it is urgent to speak with a criminal defense attorney regarding your case. For those facing child abduction charges in Orange County, contact Ronald G. Brower, Attorney at Law

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