Every parent fears their children going missing or being kidnapped. It's easy to assume that someone who has your children after they've gone missing took them, too. For some, accusations of kidnapping come too soon. They may have been helping a child who was lost or directing them to someone who could help them get home.
Jumping to conclusions can lead to good people being accused of serious federal crimes. Kidnapping accusations can lead to federal charges. Under both federal and state law, kidnapping is defined as taking someone from one place to another against his or her will. It can also mean confining someone in a controlled space. It's true that some laws require the kidnapping to be for an unlawful purpose to be called kidnapping, so in those states, it would be difficult to prosecute someone who was claiming he or she was assisting a lost child.
Because kidnapping is a felony, it's important that you protect yourself the moment anyone accuses you of it. Prison sentences for this crime can be 20 years or more, taking decades of your life and freedom away from you. If you're accused of parental kidnapping for taking your child without custodial rights, then your sentence could be as long as three years due to being under a different federal law.
If you didn't kidnap the child in question or weren't holding him or her against his or her will, it's important that you have witnesses and documentation on your side if you can. Video surveillance, witness testimonies and other defenses can help you fight back against these serious charges.
Source: FindLaw, "Kidnapping," accessed Sep. 03, 2015