A strange home robbery in the Rhawnhurst neighborhood of Philadelphia offers a valuable and real-life example of the complexities surrounding the law of kidnapping. Criminal defense lawyer Joseph D. Lento explains.
Home Invasion Ends With Occupants Tied Up
According to the initial reports in the media, a home invasion took place near the Pelbano Recreation Center during the overnight hours of February 11, 2019. Police say that several men entered a home there by pushing through a window air conditioning unit. Once inside, they tied up the three occupants, who had been sleeping at the time, assaulted them, and tied their hands behind their backs using rope and duct tape.
Police say the intruders left after taking around $400 in cash and a cell phone.
The Vague Law of Kidnapping
A lot happened in this scene. But was there a kidnapping?
The law is less than clear.
18 Pa.C.S. §2901 is the statute that defines kidnapping for the state of Pennsylvania. The law provides two ways for a kidnapping to occur:
- Moving someone else a substantial distance under the circumstances from where they were found, or
- Confining someone else for a substantial period in a place of isolation
Additionally, the action has to be done with an intent to either hold that person for ransom or as a shield, to facilitate a felony or an escape, to hurt or terrorize that person or someone else, or to interfere with police.
The only thing that is clear from the statute is that the Hollywood version of a kidnapping – where assailants blindfold and gag someone, throw them in the trunk of a car, and speed across state lines – is not the only way for it to happen. Instead, kidnapping can even occur when the victim was not moved, at all; they just had to be confined in isolation for long enough.
However, just because the kidnapping law is more expansive than a classic movie kidnapping scene does not mean that it is all encompassing. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has made some rather surprising limitations to its breadth. In the case Commonwealth v. Hook, the court decided that there could not be a kidnapping by confinement in an apartment “frequented both by relatives and by business contacts,” located above a business that was then open to the public, and where a delivery boy was expected in a matter of minutes. Because the confinement did not make “discovery or rescue unlikely,” there could not have been a kidnapping because it was not done “in a place of isolation” sufficient to satisfy the statute.
Joseph D. Lento Defends People Accused of Crimes in Philadelphia
Joseph D. Lento is a criminal defense attorney who represents and defends people who have been accused of a crime in and near the city of Philadelphia. This includes those who have been charged with kidnapping or other violent crime. The repercussions and penalties of a conviction are serious, making the help and legal guidance of a defense lawyer like Joseph D. Lento even more essential. Contact his law office online or call him at (215) 535-5353.