Kidnapping Charges and Penalties in Massachusetts
In Massachusetts, a person is guilty of kidnapping if he, "without lawful authority, forcibly or secretly confines or imprisons another person." In cases where the Commonwealth alleges that a person is secretly confined for purposes of extorting a ransom, the maximum punishment is life in the state prison. Where the Commonwealth does not allege any intent to extort a ransom, the maximum punishment is 10 years in state prison, or 2 1/2 years in the house of correction.
Relation to Other Offenses
Kidnapping charges often accompany charges of Assault and Battery; Domestic Assault and Battery; Strangulation; Aggravated Assault and Battery; Robbery; and Rape. That is because each of these charges involve the use of force against another person, and sometimes the police interpret that alleged use of force as constituting two crimes -- the underlying offense of assault and battery (for example) as well as kidnapping for the period in which that force is allegedly applied.
Similarly, in cases where a dispute arises in a vehicle, the person driving the car is in control of the circumstances of their passenger. For this reason, some police departments (particularly Boston and Worcester, in my experience) bring kidnapping charges where the driver of a vehicle does not immediately stop the car when a dispute supposedly arises inside, which is later reported to the police.
In each of the cases described above, the kidnapping charge is incidental to another offense alleged by the state. That's a long-winded way of saying "piling on charges." Any time the state decides to pile on charges, it does so at the expense of serious contemplation of its proof, and the appropriateness of those charges. What that means for people charged with kidnapping is that, in more cases than most others, there may be serious reasons to doubt the appropriateness of the charge, and therefore an opportunity to move to dismiss the charge, or otherwise attack the state's case.
Relation to Domestic Assault and Battery
Until 2014, kidnapping was an offense that could only be prosecuted in the Superior Court because the only punishment provided for by statute was imprisonment in the state prison. In 2014, the legislature passed An Act Relevant to Domestic Violence, which changed the law to provide for a jail sentence in addition to a state prison sentence, which means that as of 2014, the district and municipal courts have the authority to prosecute cases including charges of kidnapping.
The Act that made the change to the law as the result of a backlash to the Jared Remy case, in which Mr. Remy killed his girlfriend while on release on charges of assaulting her. The signal that the change in the law sent to law enforcement and prosecutors' offices was that the state legislature expects dogged commitment to the prosecution of domestic violence cases, even where that means brining charges that used to be reserved for the worst-of-the-worst against ordinary low-level alleged offenders, and the various Massachusetts District Attorneys' Offices have run with that direction ever since.
Because kidnapping charges frequently tag along with other charges that involve the use of force against another person, that makes all cases where a person is charged with kidnapping eligible for a hearing at which the Commonwealth can request that the defendant be held without bail for up to 120 days. You can read more about section 58A hearings, or "dangerousness hearings," as they are more commonly known, here. The point is that, in certain counties, it is nearly inevitable that anyone charged with kidnapping will face a dangerousness hearing, which requires immediate attention and preparation given the high stakes.
If you, or someone you know, is charged with kidnapping, contact me immediately to discuss your options, and the development of a personalized defense against the charges.
See: G.L. c. 265 s. 26; Dangerousness Hearings; Assault and Battery; Domestic Assault and Battery; Strangulation; Aggravated Assault and Battery; Robbery; Rape; An Act Relevant to Domestic Violence.