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Aggravated kidnapping is a crime that strikes fear into the hearts of parents. This lesson defines what constitutes aggravated kidnapping, discuss applicable laws, and provide some statistics.

The Lindbergh Kidnapping

On the first day of March in 1932, the almost two-year-old son of famed aviator Charles Lindbergh was kidnapped from his bedroom at the Lindbergh home.

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A series of ransom notes followed, demanding a large sum of money for the child’s return.The child’s body was found approximately six weeks later, and the hunt for the kidnapper intensified. Bruno Hauptmann, a local carpenter, was arrested and charged with aggravated kidnapping and murder in September of 1934.

Aggravated Kidnapping

Kidnapping is a criminal offense that takes place when a person takes another person to a location and then prevents them from leaving freely. The case of the Lindbergh baby goes a step further and qualifies as the criminal offense of aggravated kidnapping because of the factors and outcome involved.When someone mentions the term ‘kidnapping’ we tend to think of cases involving stranger abductions resulting in sexual assault or even death.

However, these instances of aggravated kidnapping are actually extremely rare and account for only about 1 percent of all kidnappings reported on an annual basis.A kidnapping becomes aggravated when factors are involved above and beyond taking and keeping someone against their will. These aggravating factors can include:

  • Holding someone for ransom
  • Using force to abduct or detain someone
  • Crossing state lines while committing the offense of kidnapping

Aggravated kidnapping laws vary from state to state. Let’s take a look at how the states of Texas and Tennessee define aggravated kidnapping.

Aggravated Kidnapping in Texas

Under Texas law, aggravated kidnapping is a felony in the first degree.

There are seven elements that cause a kidnapping in Texas to become aggravated. They include:

  1. Terroristically threatening the victim
  2. Requesting ransom for the victim
  3. Injuring or sexually violating the victim
  4. Abducting someone while committing a felony
  5. The kidnapping interferes with a political or government event
  6. The kidnapper uses a deadly weapon, such as a gun or knife
  7. The kidnapper uses the victim to protect themselves from harm

Aggravated Kidnapping in Tennessee

Aggravated kidnapping in Tennessee is categorized at two levels under Tennessee law: aggravated kidnapping and extremely aggravated kidnapping. Aggravated kidnapping in Tennessee takes place if one or more of the five aggravating factors below are present, including:

  1. The kidnapping interferes with a political or government event
  2. The kidnapping occurs during the commission of a felony
  3. The victim of the kidnapping is physically harmed
  4. A deadly weapon is used during the kidnapping
  5. The kidnapping is committed with the intent to seriously injure the victim

Extremely aggravated kidnapping in Tennessee occurs when one or more of four factors are present, including:

  1. A deadly weapon is used and the victim believes it will be used against them
  2. The victim is younger than 13 years of age
  3. The crime is committed to collect ransom or to use the victim to protect the perpetrator
  4. The victim of the kidnapping is seriously physically harmed

Aggravated Kidnapping Statistics

It’s difficult to get accurate statistics regarding all aggravated kidnappings within the United States. Most statistics that are available involve missing children, but they are not the only ones that are the victims of kidnappings.

Here are some things that we do know:

  • Close to one million people are reported missing each year, and the vast majority of those are children
  • Of all the children reported missing, only about 1%, are victims of aggravated kidnapping
  • Most victims of aggravated kidnapping are female, at approximately 75%
  • Of the children who are victims of stranger abductions and aggravated kidnapping, about 1 in 5 will not survive: Almost 75% of those are killed within three hours of being abducted

Lesson Summary

Let’s review;Kidnapping is a criminal charge that involves taking and holding someone against their will. However, kidnappings turn into aggravated kidnappings when aggravated factors as defined by individual states are present.Aggravated kidnapping in Texas includes cases in which the victim is threatened, money is demanded, a deadly weapon is used, the victim is injured, the kidnapping occurs during a government event, or the kidnapper uses the victim to protect themselves from harm.While in Tennessee, there are two categories: aggravated kidnapping and extremely aggravated kidnapping.

The latter involves a victim younger than 13, serious harm, a deadly weapon being used on the victim, or money demanded for the victim’s return.The statistics available on aggravated kidnappings in the United States pertain primarily to children who are abducted by strangers. Although this type of kidnapping only makes up 1% of all missing child cases, it’s the one that strikes the most fear in our hearts.

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