Why There Are No Kidnapping Charges Against the Suspect in the Philadelphia Police Shootout

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Aug 16, 2019 | 0 Comments

The story all over the news in Philadelphia is about the police standoff in the Nicetown-Tioga neighborhood. Now that the dust from the shootout has settled, we can see what criminal charges are likely to be filed against the suspect. Perhaps the most interesting development has been that prosecutors are unlikely to file kidnapping charges.

Criminal defense lawyer Joseph D. Lento examines this decision.

Shootout in Philadelphia

The scene began when police tried to serve a warrant at a house in the 3700 block of North 15th Street on Wednesday, August 14. They were met with gunfire and called for backup.

Over the next seven hours, the police and the suspect exchanged fire. Inside the house, two police officers and three others were held hostage for several hours.

Those hostages were freed by a SWAT team around five hours after the shootout began, apparently without the suspect even noticing.

The situation ended with the suspect surrendering to police.

Six police officers were hurt in the shootout, though none were hurt seriously. A seventh police officer was hurt in a car accident while responding to the scene.

Philadelphia district attorney Larry Krasner said that the suspect would likely face six counts of attempted murder and aggravated assault charges.

No Kidnapping Charges for Hostage Situation

Some people might be surprised why the suspect in the shootout will not be charged with kidnapping. After all, he took five people hostage in the house.

We've discussed the nuances of kidnapping law, before, though that was in the context of kidnapping during a home invasion.

In short, under 18 Pa.C.S. §2901, kidnapping can happen in Pennsylvania in two ways:

  1. By confining someone else in isolation for a substantial period of time
  2. By moving someone else a substantial distance from where they were found

In addition, there has to be an intent to hold the kidnapped person for ransom or use them as a shield in order to:

  • Facilitate a felony
  • Escape
  • Hurt or terrorize the kidnapped person or someone else
  • Interfere with police

In this case, it does not appear that the five hostages were moved a “substantial distance,” so prosecutors would have to contend that the hostages were held in “isolation” and that five hours is a “substantial period of time.”

Even if they could prove this, though, they would still have to show the necessary intent. The suspect, though, did not seem to ask for ransom for the hostages. Finally, precisely because the SWAT team was able to extricate the hostages without the suspect's notice, it does not look like the suspect was using them as a shield, for any reason. If he was using them as a shield, he surely would have noticed and tried to prevent them from being freed.

Criminal Defense Lawyer Joseph D. Lento Serves the Accused in Philadelphia

Joseph D. Lento is a criminal defense lawyer who serves the accused in Philadelphia. With his help, you can invoke your rights and protect your interests against a criminal charge. Contact him online or call him at (215) 535-5353.

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento passionately fights for the futures of his clients in criminal courtrooms in Philadelphia and across Pennsylvania as well as in New Jersey and nationwide. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. With unparalleled experience occupying several roles in the criminal justice system outside of being an attorney, Joseph D. Lento can give you valuable behind-the-scenes insight as to what is happening during all phases of the legal process. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, and is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide. In the courtroom and in life, attorney Joseph D. Lento stands up when the bell rings!


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Attorney Joseph D. Lento has more than a decade of experience successfully resolving clients' criminal charges in Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania counties. If you are having any uncertainties about what the future may hold for you or a loved one, contact the Lento Law Firm today! Criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento will go above and beyond the needs of any client, and will fight until the final bell rings.

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