New Jersey Kidnapping/Abducting Laws


Kidnapping is the crime of taking a person against their will to an undisclosed location.  This may be done for ransom or in furtherance of another crime, or in connection with a child custody dispute.

According to the laws of New Jersey, a person is guilty of kidnapping:

  • if he unlawfully removes another from the place where he is found; or
  • if he unlawfully confines another with the purpose of holding that person for ransom or reward or as a shield or hostage or
  • if he or she unlawfully confines another for a substantial period, with any of the following purposes:
  • To facilitate commission of any crime or flight thereafter;
  • To inflict bodily injury on or to terrorize the victim or another;
  • To interfere with the performance of any governmental or political function; or
  • To permanently deprive a parent, guardian or other lawful custodian of custody of the victim.

Kidnapping is a crime of the first degree and upon conviction a person may be sentenced to an ordinary term of imprisonment between 15 and 30 years.  If the actor releases the victim unharmed and in a safe place prior to apprehension, it is a crime of the second degree.

However, if the victim of the kidnapping is less than 16 years of age and if during the kidnapping a crime under N.J.S.2C:14-2 or N.J.S.2C:14-or N.J.S.2C:24-4 is committed against the victim, or the actor sells or delivers the victim to another person for pecuniary gain the, term of imprisonment imposed shall be either a term of 25 years during which the actor shall not be eligible for parole.  A specific term between 25 years and life imprisonment, of which the actor shall serve 25 years before being eligible for parole.  If the actor is convicted of the criminal homicide of a victim of a kidnapping, any sentence imposed shall be served consecutively to any sentence imposed.

It is an affirmative defense to a prosecution under which must be proved by clear and convincing evidence, that:

  • The actor reasonably believed that the action was necessary to preserve the victim from imminent danger to his welfare.  However, no defense shall be available if the actor does not, as soon as reasonably practicable but in no event more than 24 hours after taking a victim under his protection, give notice of the victim’s location to the police department of the municipality where the victim resided, the office of the county prosecutor in the county where the victim resided, or the Division of Youth and Family Services in the Department of Children and Families;
  • The actor reasonably believed that the taking or detaining of the victim was consented to by a parent, or by an authorized State agency; or
  • The victim, being at the time of the taking or concealment not less than 14 years old, was taken away at his own volition by his parent and without purpose to commit a criminal offense with or against the victim.
  • That a parent having the right of custody reasonably believed he was fleeing from imminent physical danger from the other parent, provided that the parent having custody, as soon as reasonably practicable gives notice of the victim’s location to the police department of the municipality where the victim resided, the office of the county prosecutor in the county where the victim resided, or the Division of Youth and Family Services in the Department of Children and Families; or
  • Commences an action affecting custody in an appropriate court[i].

The Missing Persons Unit was established by legislation in 1984 and is one of the few law enforcement units in the United States which comprehensively addresses the many facets of the missing persons problem.  The United States State Department considers the Missing Persons Unit the point agency in New Jersey on parental abduction as well.  The Missing Persons Unit developed New Jersey’s Amber Alert Plan to provide rapid notification to the public of an abducted child. The Amber Alert Plan utilizes the television and radio systems’ Emergency Broadcast System to notify the public of a missing child.


[i] N.J. Stat. § 2C:13-1