Child abduction is commonly mislabeled as kidnapping, but legally speaking is much different. In Maryland child abduction occurs when a relative takes custody of a child under the age of 16 for a period of more than 48 hours after being told to return the child. The specific crime depends on how long the child was away, and where the child was taken. If the child was taken somewhere in Maryland then the maximum punishment under section 9-304 of the family law article is 30 days in jail. If the child was taken out of state the charge becomes felony child abduction and is punishable by 1 year in jail under 9-305 of the family law article. In this same section the maximum penalty becomes 3 years if the child was away for more than 30 days. If the child is taken out of the country the defendant may be charged with felony child abduction that carries a five-year maximum penalty and a $5,000 fine.
There are numerous defenses to this charge, so do not feel that you will be sent to jail or convicted of a felony just because your child’s mother or father accused you of child abduction. First of all the state must prove that the defendant knew the other parent was the lawful custodian of the child, and that the intent was there to deprive that parent of custody. There are many cases where one parent obtains full custody without the other knowing, and then immediately attempts to file charges for child abduction. You have a chance to fight back against this misuse of the justice system, and having the right lawyer will ensure you are prepared for the fight.
There is also an absolute defense to child abduction if the defendant took the child to avoid the child being harmed. This defense requires the filing of a petition within 4 days that states failing to take the child away would have resulted in a clear and present danger to the health, safety or welfare of the child. This petition must also seek to revise, amend or clarify the custody order. If the judge agrees with the petition then the case will be dismissed and the state will be barred from further prosecution.
Benjamin Herbst is an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney that handles misdemeanor and felony child abduction cases. He is available anytime to discuss your case, and may be able to appear at a bail review on short notice if the defendant is in custody. If you or a loved one is being investigated or has been charged contact Benjamin at 410-207-2598 for a consultation.