Kidnapping Case Law In California

In People v. Daniels (1969) 71 Cal. 2d 1119, 1134 [80 Cal. Rptr. 897, 459 P.2d 225, 43 A.L.R.3d 677], a section 209 kidnapping for robbery (also known as aggravated kidnapping), the high court "recognized that some brief movements are necessarily incidental to the crime of robbery" and "are not of the scope intended by the Legislature in prescribing the asportation element of [aggravated kidnapping]." It went on to "hold that the intent of the Legislature in amending Penal Code section 209 in 1951 was to exclude from its reach not only 'standstill' robberies but also those in which the movements of the victim are merely incidental to the commission of the robbery and do not substantially increase the risk of harm over and above that necessarily present in the crime of robbery itself. (71 Cal. 2d at p. 1139.) In reaching this decision, the Daniels court cited to authorities that urged limiting the scope of the kidnapping statute, with its substantially more severe penal consequences (i.e., death or life with or without the possibility of parole), to true kidnapping cases and exclude from its coverage those crimes such as robbery, rape, or assault in which some minor confinement or asportation occurs as a subsidiary incident. ( Id. at pp. 1137-1138.) It concluded that such minimal movement could not reasonably be found to constitute "asportation" within the meaning of the aggravated kidnapping statute. ( Id. at p. 1140.) Then, in People v. Stanworth (1974) 11 Cal. 3d 588 [114 Cal. Rptr. 250, 522 P.2d 1058] our Supreme Court held that the rule announced in Daniels had no application to section 207 convictions for simple kidnapping. (People v. Stanworth, supra, 11 Cal. 3d at p. 598.) It reasoned that: ". . . the 'movement' factor of the Daniels rule is uniquely suited to section 209 and not to section 207. the rule concerns one type of kidnapping described in section 209 which, by definition, involves the underlying offense of robbery. In contrast, kidnapping, as defined by section 207, may occur in the absence of another crime. Thus where only simple kidnapping is involved, it is clear that the victim's movements cannot be evaluated in the light of a standard which makes reference to the commission of another crime. Coincidentally, Cotton did involve related charges of rioting and assault. Because the victim's movements were not substantial, we concluded that those movements were 'only incidental to assault and rioting.' ( Cotton, 56 Cal. 2d at p. 464.) Nevertheless, the central thrust of Cotton is contained in our reasoning that the Legislature did not intend to apply criminal sanctions where the 'slightest movement' is involved. ( Cotton, 56 Cal. 2d at p. 465.)" ( People v. Stanworth, supra, 11 Cal. 3d at p. 600, italics added.) The Stanworth court went on to impose a requirement that the victim's movement must be "more than slight . . . or trivial [citation], they must be substantial in character to constitute kidnapping under section 207." ( People v. Stanworth, supra, 11 Cal. 3d at p. 601.) The court then applied that standard to uphold the four simple kidnapping convictions before it despite the fact that the asportations in those cases resulted in the associated crimes of oral copulation, rape and murder. ( Id. at pp. 601-604.) The law pertaining to kidnapping continued to evolve. The high court did, however, continue to examine both the definition of the offense and its punishment, when ascertaining which asportation standard to apply in a given case. ( People v. Rayford (1994) 9 Cal. 4th 1, 20-22 [36 Cal. Rptr. 2d 317, 884 P.2d 1369].) When speaking on the subject even more recently, our high court voiced its continuing approval of the "substantial in character" asportation standard for simple kidnapping but declared that the fact finder would no longer be limited to the distance a victim is moved and could now consider the "totality of the circumstances" including whether the movement was incidental to the commission of an associated offense. (People v. Martinez (1999) 20 Cal. 4th 225, 236-237 [83 Cal. Rptr. 2d 533, 973 P.2d 512].)