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
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:
- By confining someone else in isolation for a substantial period of time
- 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
- 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.