A Santa Ana woman is facing charges for attempted kidnapping after she was recorded trying to separate a newborn child from its mother. According to the police, the 38-year-old tried to convince the new mother that she had to give up the baby to comply with a protective custody order. The mother was told that the police would have been called if she wasn’t willing to cooperate.
The family contacted the police and coordinated with the local media. Television stations showed the video on air and asked for help identifying the suspect. The woman surrendered herself to police shortly after seeing the footage.
An Attempt to Commit a Crime is Still a Crime
The woman never took custody of the newborn. She was never successful in separating the mother from her child. Despite this, she is still facing criminal charges. Why? It’s a crime to attempt to commit a crime.
The crime of attempt is defined in California Penal Code 21a PC. You can be convicted of an attempted crime if you:
- Have the intent to commit a specific crime, AND
- Perform a direct, but ineffective act toward committing that crime.
In other words, you have to try to commit a crime, but fail. You have to do more than plan or prepare. You must take a direct step toward putting your plan to commit the crime into motion. Once you take that step, your intent to commit the crime is crystal clear.
Abandoning Your Crime Won’t Get You Off the Hook
What if the Santa Ana woman never tried to kidnap the woman again? What if she gave up sooner and walked away? It wouldn’t matter. She’d still face charges for attempted kidnapping.
Why? In California, you’re guilty of attempt once you take that direct step. The fact that you weren’t successful, abandoned “further efforts to complete the crime,” or were interrupted while trying to commit the crime don’t matter.
Penalties for Attempt Depend On the Underlying Offense
There’s no one penalty for attempted crimes. Instead, the punishment for an attempted offense simply mirrors the punishment for the intended crime. According to Penal Code Section 664 PC, a person convicted of attempt should be sentenced to half of whatever the jail time is for the intended crime.
Here, the woman is accused of attempted to kidnap a child. If convicted, she’ll face half of the time in prison that she’d face if she was successful in taking the child.
Kidnapping a Newborn is a Felony
Kidnapping, as defined in Penal Code Section 207 PC, involves using force or fear to take or detain another person without their consent. The crime becomes aggravated when a child under the age of 14 is involved.
In California, kidnapping a newborn child is a felony punishable by up to 11 years in a state prison. So, the attempted kidnapping of a newborn is punishable by a maximum of five-and-one-half years in a California prison.
Someone convicted of an attempted crime can also face other penalties, including fines, probation, and restraining orders.
Defending Charges For an Attempted Crime
Everyone accused of a crime has the right to offer a legal defense. A defense can explain or excuse alleged criminal behavior. A person accused of an attempted crime can offer the following defenses:
- There was no intent to commit a specific crime
- No direct steps toward committing the crime were ever taken, or
- Criminal behavior never went beyond planning or preparing.
It can also be helpful to consider whether your rights were violated in any way. If you were arrested illegally or subject to an unlawful search, you might be able to escape all of your criminal charges.