Tennessee Kidnapping/Abduction 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 Tennessee, kidnapping is false imprisonment as defined in § 39-13-302, under circumstances exposing the other person to substantial risk of bodily injury[i].  § 39-13-302 defines that a person commits the offense of false imprisonment when knowingly removes or confines another unlawfully so as to interfere substantially with the other’s liberty.  Kidnapping is a Class C felony and false imprisonment is a Class A misdemeanor [ii].

Aggravated kidnapping is also false imprisonment, as defined in § 39-13-302, but committed:

  • To facilitate the commission of any felony or flight thereafter;
  • To interfere with the performance of any governmental or political function;
  • With the intent to inflict serious bodily injury on or to terrorize the victim or another;
  • Where the victim suffers bodily injury; or
  • While the defendant is in possession of a deadly weapon or threatens the use of a deadly weapon.

Aggravated kidnapping is a Class B felony.  If the offender voluntarily releases the victim alive or voluntarily provides information leading to the victim’s safe release, such actions shall be considered by the court as a mitigating factor at the time of sentencing[iii].

Another type of kidnapping is Especially aggravated kidnapping.  It is also false imprisonment, as defined in § 39-13-302 b:

  • Accomplished with a deadly weapon or by display of any article used or fashioned to lead the victim to reasonably believe it to be a deadly weapon;
  • Where the victim was under the age of thirteen at the time of the removal or confinement;
  • Committed to hold the victim for ransom or reward, or as a shield or hostage; or
  • Where the victim suffers serious bodily injury.

Especially aggravated kidnapping is a Class A felony.  If the offender voluntarily releases the victim alive or voluntarily provides information leading to the victim’s safe release, such actions shall  also be considered by the court as a mitigating factor at the time of sentencing[iv].

Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Criminal Intelligence Unit is the missing children clearinghouse of the state.  The primary areas of focus for missing-child clearinghouses are networking, information dissemination, training development and delivery, data collection, and provision of technical assistance in cases of missing and sexually exploited children.

[i] Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-303

[ii] Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-302

[iii] Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-304

[iv] Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-305