Child Abduction in California

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California law defines Child Abduction (also referred to as Child Stealing) as maliciously keeping, enticing away, withholding, or concealing a minor child with the intent to deprive another person of his/her right to lawful custody or visitation. 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.

If you believe you are or can be accused of child abduction or child stealing, contact a criminal defense attorney immediately to improve your chances of avoiding an arrest. We have successfully represented clients facing child abduction charges and in some cases have assisted them in avoiding arrest and criminal prosecution.

Penalties and Punishment

The Los Angeles 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 278 (Child Abduction Without Custodial Right) and California Penal Code 278.5 (Child Abduction With Custodial Right). The main difference between those two laws is that the former law targets persons who do not have legal custody over the minor child they are accused of abducting whereas in the latter, the law targets those persons who have legal custody of the child and abduct the minor child from another person who also has legal custody. Penal Code 278.5 prosecutes the person who interferes with custody or visitation of the custodial parent or person.

To obtain a conviction for Child Abduction the prosecutor must prove the person abducting must have maliciously kept, enticed away, withheld, or concealed a minor child with intent to deprive another person of lawful custody or visitation rights.

The penalties for the abduction of a child range from a misdemeanor charge punishable by up to one year in county jail and three years' probation to a felony charge punishable by two to four years in state prison along with a hefty fine of up to $10,000.


Several common 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 abducting (stealing); therefore you would not be guilty of the offense;
  • The person whom you took the minor child from was not the legal custodian of the child;
  • The person taking the child did not act maliciously-that is to say, the person abducting had good intentions and took the child to prevent physical or emotional harm to the child in the care of the custodian.

The prosecutor must prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant interfered 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 s verdict of not guilty must be returned by the jury.

Contact Our Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorneys

If you are accused of Child Abduction or Child Stealing you need to contact an experienced & knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer immediately. At Stephen G. Rodriguez & Partners we bring over 70 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 70 years of experience can do for you. Contact Stephen G. Rodriguez & Partners.