A conviction for kidnapping has serious consequences, including the possibility of life in prison.
In order to convict a defendant of kidnapping, the Commonwealth must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:
There are increased penalties if the defendant’s intent was to use the kidnapping to extort money, if the defendant harmed the alleged victim, or if the defendant was armed with a weapon.
There are various defense theories that can be advanced in kidnapping cases.
If a person is the victim of a physical attack, he has the legal right to defend himself. When a defendant: (1) had a reasonable belief he was in physical danger because he was in the process of being attacked (or was about to be attacked); (2) took reasonable measures to attempt to avoid a physical altercation prior to resorting to physical force; and (3) did not use excess force in defending himself; then he may argue to the jury that he was lawfully defending himself. The Commonwealth would bear the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that self-defense did not apply to the facts of the case. A defendant is also not guilty if he was lawfully defending another person from an imminent attack.
It is generally impermissible to introduce evidence of prior illegal conduct to establish an alleged victim (or any other witness) is a bad person. However, there are exceptions that may allow the jury to learn that the alleged victim has a prior history of violence (in order to establish the alleged victim, and not the defendant, was the initial aggressor; or to establish the defendant used an appropriate amount of force in self-defense). If the alleged victim was convicted of a felony in the 10 years preceding a trial, or a misdemeanor in the five years preceding a trial, a judge might admit such evidence to allow a jury to consider if the convictions render the alleged victim unable to obey the courtroom oath to tell the truth. It is obviously very helpful when this type of evidence about the alleged victim is shared with the jury.
If an alleged victim is claiming the defendant kidnapped her, she’s obviously going to be angry at the defendant. If she is willing to come to court and testify at trial, she ordinarily wants the defendant to be convicted. Attorney Spring will cross-examine the alleged victim about her desire to see the defendant found guilty and punished.
Many kidnapping cases arise from marital disputes, and often times the spouse who is the alleged victim ultimately does not want the defendant to be prosecuted. Massachusetts law allows individuals to refuse to testify against their spouses in most cases. Therefore, if the alleged victim is married to the defendant and refuses to testify at the trial, the prosecutor might be unable to prove the case (or the case might get a whole lot weaker without the alleged victim’s testimony).
Even if the alleged victim is not married to the defendant (and is therefore unable to assert a marital privilege), some prosecutors will consider the alleged victim’s opinion about the appropriate outcome of the case. If the alleged victim does not want the defendant to be prosecuted, Attorney Spring will attempt to convince the prosecutor to dismiss the case.
Some alleged victims can assert a Fifth Amendment Privilege and refuse to testify. The Constitution states a witness cannot be forced to testify if such testimony would incriminate the witness in a crime. Suppose, for example, that the alleged victim punched and kicked the defendant as he was kidnapping her. Because the alleged victim could be prosecuted for punching and kicking the defendant, the Fifth Amendment protects her from being forced to testify at the defendant’s trial and she can refuse to take the witness stand.
Kidnapping is a serious crime that carries significant potential penalties. Middlesex County criminal defense attorney Christopher Spring is prepared to aggressively defend individuals charged with kidnapping, home invasion, and stalking.