Child Abduction in California
Child Stealing: California Penal Code Sections 278 and 278.5
California law defines Child Abduction, also known as Child Stealing, as
two distinct crimes:
Child Abduction Without Custodial Right (Penal Code section 278) - applies to a person who does not have a legal right to custody, and
who restrains, conceals or withholds a child from the person who has legal
custody. Child Abduction is often perpetrated by parents, in-laws, relatives,
grandparents and family members who have no legal rights to custody or
visitation of the child. A parent who takes a child away before there
is any court order issued is also subject to Child Abduction because parents
have equal custody rights in the absence of a court order.
Child Abduction With Custodial Right (Penal Code section 278.5) - applies to a person who has lawful custody rights and who takes, withholds,
keeps, entices away or conceals a child and maliciously deprives another
lawful custodian of their right to custody, or deprives a person of a
right to lawful visitation
If you believe you are being accused of Child Abduction or Child Stealing,
contact a criminal defense attorney immediately to improve your chances
of avoiding an arrest. Speaking to law enforcement officers or even government
social workers can lead to incriminating yourself and your arrest.
Penalties and Punishment
The Los Angeles County District Attorney's office has a special unit
of well-trained prosecutors who aggressively prosecute Child Abduction
cases. Child Abduction prosecutions are charged under California Penal
Code section 278 (Child Abduction Without Custodial Right) and California
Penal Code section 278.5 (Child Abduction With Custodial Right). The main
difference between those two laws is that Penal Code section 278 targets
persons who do not have legal custody over the minor child, whereas Penal
Code section 278.5, targets a person who has legal custody of the child
and is accused of abducting the minor from another person who also has
The penalties for child abduction are up to one year in county jail, a
$1,000.00 fine, and three years' probation for a misdemeanor to a
felony charge punishable by up to four years in custody, along with a
hefty fine of up to $10,000.
Several legal defenses can be raised by the attorney when facing charges
of Child Abduction:
- You had legal custody of the minor child you are accused of stealing; therefore
you may not be guilty of the charge;
- The person from whom you took the minor child from did not have legal custody
of the child;
- The person taking the child did not act maliciously (the person allegedly
abducting the child had good intentions and did so to prevent physical
or emotional harm by the custodian or another person, such as the custodian's
The prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant
interfered with and unlawfully detained a child with the intent to deprive
another person of his or her right to visitation or custody. If the prosecutor
fails to do this then you are entitled to an acquittal.
Los Angeles Child Abduction Defense Attorneys
If you are charged with Child Abduction or Child Stealing in the Los Angeles
area you should contact an experienced and knowledgeable criminal defense
lawyer immediately. At Stephen G. Rodriguez & Partners, we bring over
50 years of combined legal experience to the table to fight your case.
Contact our office to confidentially discuss your legal situation and
learn what legal options are available to you. We can address your concerns
and answer all your questions in plain English.
See what over 50 years of experience can do for you.
Contact Stephen G. Rodriguez & Partners.