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O.J. Simpson is back in the news and so is the law of kidnapping. Nevada authorities have charged Simpson with a variety of crimes, ranging from armed robbery to kidnapping. While the facts of the case are still murky, it appears that the kidnapping charge arises from Simpson and his cohorts allegedly threatening two memorabilia collectors while they were in a Las Vegas hotel room. Kidnapping was traditionally defined as “the unlawful confinement and movement of a victim by threat or use of force, or by deception.” Laurie L. Levenson, Glannon Guide to Criminal Law 447 (2005); see also William Blackstone, 4 Commentaries *219 (defining kidnapping as “the forcible abduction or stealing away of a man, woman, or child from their own country and sending them into another”). Under the common law, there was an asportation requirement for kidnapping. Thus, Simpson could not be convicted of kidnapping under the common law unless he actually moved his alleged victims while they were being unlawfully confined. States relax requirements for kidnapping charge Many states have relaxed the asportation requirement for a kidnapping charge. For example, to prove first-degree kidnapping in Nevada, it is sufficient for the prosecution to show that the defendant “willfully seize[d], confine[d], inveigle[d], entice[d], decoy[ed], abduct[ed], conceal[ed], kidnap[ped] or carrie[d] away any person by any means whatsoever with the intent to hold or detain [that individual].” Nev. Rev. Stat. � 200.310(1); see also Mendoza v. Nevada, 130 P.3d 176, 178-80 (Nev. 2006). In many jurisdictions, any movement of a defendant may suffice for kidnapping, even if it is within the same dwelling. See, e.g., People v. Torres, 141 P.3d 931, 935-36 (Colo. Ct. App. 2006) (holding that the defendant’s act of dragging the victim from the first floor of her home to the basement was not “insubstantial” and constituted kidnapping in the second degree). Moreover, a defendant can be guilty of both kidnapping and armed robbery, even if the same threat of force is used for both crimes and very little movement of the victim occurs. Under Nevada law, a defendant is guilty of kidnapping, as well as armed robbery, if the jury finds either that (1) “the movement of the victim was not incidental of the robbery and the movement of the victim substantially increased the risk of harm to the victim over and above that necessarily present in the robbery” or (2) “the victim was physically restrained and such restraint increased the risk of harm to the victim or had an independent purpose or significance.” Mendoza, 130 P.3d at 179. Thus, depending on the facts, Simpson might be found guilty of both armed robbery and kidnapping, even if his victims never left the hotel room. As currently alleged, Simpson is charged with kidnapping solely because he and his cohorts enticed one of their victims to the hotel room to forcibly take property from him. See State v. Simpson, No. 07F19284A-D (criminal complaint). Throughout the country, courts have tackled a variety of issues related to kidnapping law. Last year, for example, the California Supreme Court, in People v. Medina, 161 P.3d 187 (Calif. 2007), addressed the question of whether a defendant may be charged with attempted kidnapping during the commission of a carjacking if the defendant is not successful with the carjacking. The facts underlying Medina are particularly interesting. Hubie Perez and his three young sons were sleeping in their passenger van while they waited for Perez’s wife, Zoveida, to get off work. When Zoveida made it to the van and began to buckle in her kids, Medina rushed to the van to carjack it to flee from pursuing officers. Zoveida was in no mood for a carjacking. She elbowed Medina and tried to force him out of the van. Medina kept saying, “We got to go, we got to go,” as he shoved her back into the van. Clearly a mother to be reckoned with, Zoveida yelled, “You got to get out of my van. My kids are in the van. I have kids in here. Get out. Get out.” Ultimately, Zoveida prevailed. When Medina was unable to start the car, he muttered, “Oh damn,” and left. He was apprehended later by officers. The California Supreme Court held that the facts of the case “provide[d] clear circumstantial evidence of [Medina's] specific intent to kidnap the Perez family to facilitate a carjacking.” Id. at 195. The attempted kidnapping charge could survive even if Medina did not succeed with the carjacking. Id. If Medina intended to move the victims, he met the requirements for the attempted kidnapping. It is not unusual for courts to also tackle the issue of how much movement is required to charge a defendant with kidnapping. The requirements are often fairly minimal. For instance, just last year, the California Supreme Court held in People v. Dominguez, 140 P.3d 866 (Calif. 2006), that there was sufficient movement where Dominguez dragged his victim just several feet from the roadside into a walnut orchard on the side of the road. The court held that the movement was ample for aggravated kidnapping because Dominguez’s actions made it more likely that he could inflict harm on the victim without his actions being detected. Id. at 874-75. Many forms of conduct may support a kidnapping charge. In Rios v. State, 230 S.W.3d 252 (Texas App. � Waco 2007), the Texas Court of Appeals recently held that an aggravated kidnapping can occur by merely using a weapon to keep a victim in one’s car. Rios held a knife at his victim’s neck as he forced her to continue to drive. When the victim tried to escape by driving to a police station and starting to honk, Rios forced her to continue driving. The court held that the evidence was more than sufficient for kidnapping: “By placing scissors against [the victim]‘s neck and threatening to kill her, Rios bound [the victim] to follow his command. He thwarted [her] attempt to seek help form the police . . . .In doing so, he used force and intimidation to restrain [the victim's] liberty without her consent and exercised continuous ‘physical control’ over her.” Id. at 255. While courts generally allow even the smallest amount of movement to qualify for kidnapping, there are limits. For example, in State v. Winot, 897 A.2d 115 (Conn. App. Ct. 2006), the defendant, Winot, forcibly took a 12-year-old girl by the arm and attempted to pull her toward his parked vehicle. After a jury trial, he was convicted of kidnapping in the second degree under Connecticut law. On appeal, Winot claimed that the statute was unconstitutionally vague as applied to his case. The appellate court agreed. The facts at trial demonstrated that Winot undoubtedly had the intent to kidnap the victim. On his first attempt, he drove his car toward her, pointed his finger and yelled, “I’m going to get you. You’re getting in my car.” He then got out of the car and walked toward his victim to give her a bear hug. When he was only six feet away, the victim ran toward her home and told her mother what had transpired. Four days later, Winot again noticed his victim walking home. This time, without saying anything to her, he left his car and began walking toward her. The victim began walking faster, but Winot forcibly took her right arm. When she asked him to let go, he refused, yelling, “You’re getting in my car today.” He tried to pull her toward his car, but she resisted and tried to bite him. He let go of her and rushed back to his car. The whole incident lasted a few seconds. Using a license plate number provided by the victim, police tracked down Winot and charged him with attempted kidnapping and kidnapping. Winot argued that in light of the minuscule amount of restraint imposed on the victim, he could not be charged with kidnapping. In this case, the court agreed. The appellate court found that it would be “absurd and unconscionable” to convict Winot of kidnapping based upon the minimal movement proved in the case. Id. at 125. Perhaps Winot was guilty of attempted kidnapping, but there was no actual kidnapping in the case because the defendant never actually caused the victim to move. Rights violation argument rejected in ‘Woodrum’ Finally, there are significant issues in kidnapping cases involving child abduction. Children can be forcibly abducted or lured away from their homes. Occasionally, defendants will argue that a child abduction statute violates the defendants’ First Amendment rights. For example, in People v. Woodrum, 860 N.E.2d 259 (Ill. 2006), Woodrum was charged with child abduction for inviting children into his condominium to make videos that he would later watch to get sexually excited. Woodrum argued that inviting children into his condominium did not constitute child abduction, and that taking videos of children engaged in play was not videotaping for an unlawful purpose. Woodrum also argued that prosecuting him for child abduction was an unconstitutional intrusion upon his First Amendment rights because the government was trying to control his private thoughts. In rejecting Woodrum’s arguments, the court wrote that “intentionally luring or attempting to lure [a child] into a dwelling without the consent of a parent or lawful custodian” constitutes child abduction. Id. at 273. The state need not “prove that defendant completed his unlawful purpose or intended offense after luring the children inside.” Id. Kidnapping is a serious crime that carries with it the possibility of life imprisonment in many jurisdictions. See, e.g., Nev. Rev. Stat. � 200.320 (2007). Yet there is no one way in which a defendant is guilty of this crime. The Simpson case has refocused attention on the variety of laws applying to kidnapping cases. Those laws are constantly changing as state courts interpret contemporary versions of this common law crime. Laurie L. Levenson is a professor of law, William M. Rains Fellow and director of the Center for Ethical Advocacy at Loyola Law School, Los Angeles. She can be reached at [email protected].

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