Under federal and state law, kidnapping is commonly defined as the taking of a person from one place to another against his or her will, or the confining of a person to a controlled space. Some kidnapping laws require that the taking or confining be for an unlawful purpose, such as extortion or the facilitation of a crime. A parent without legal custody rights may be charged with kidnapping for taking his or her own child, in certain circumstances.
Federal criminal code (18 U.S.C. § 1201) makes kidnapping a serious felony offense, with prison sentences of 20 or more years, depending on prior convictions and the circumstances of the case. Federal law prosecutes international parental kidnapping under a different code (18 U.S.C. § 1204), allowing for three-year prison sentences upon conviction.