Can a Grandmother Be Arrested for Kidnapping a Grandchild in Arizona?


A person can receive a kidnapping charge if they take a child without the guardian’s consent, even if the child goes with them willingly. For this reason, even a parent or grandparent can be arrested for the crime if they aren’t the child’s sole custodian. Child custody is a challenging and often emotional issue. Speaking with a family law attorney is advisable if you need help or have questions about this topic.

Grandparents and Kidnapping Laws in Arizona

  • Most kidnapping accusations occur due to domestic disputes
  • You can be charged with kidnapping a child, even if you’re a family member and they willingly go with you
  • Arizona law automatically presumes a child’s parents are his or her most suitable guardians, but grandparents can be awarded custody
  • It’s crucial to seek legal assistance if you’ve been arrested for kidnapping your grandchild in Arizona

The Arizona legal system acknowledges that grandparents play an important role in their grandchildren’s lives. The law outlines visitation and custodial rights, along with avenues to attain custody or visitation.

Court-Ordered Visitation

By default, it’s presumed that a child’s parents are the most suitable guardians, but a grandparent may be awarded custody if the parents are absent or deemed to be a detrimental influence on the child. If custodial parents are keeping a grandchild from their grandparents, grandparents can pursue court-ordered visits. To obtain visitation rights, a grandparent must establish that seeing the child will be in the child’s best interest.

Custodial and visitation rights may be revoked if a grandparent breaks the law or harms the child. In some cases, non-custodial grandparents are arrested and charged with kidnapping, which can greatly damage their chances of future visitation rights.

Kidnapping Laws in Arizona

A person can get a kidnapping charge in Arizona (even as the child’s biological grandparent) if they knowingly restrain the child and intend to:

  • Injure, sexually abuse, or inflict death upon them
  • Interfere with a governmental or political function’s performance
  • Exercise or seize control over a vehicle (including a train, bus, ship, or airplane)
  • Hold the victim as a hostage, for ransom, as a shield, or for involuntary servitude
  • Place the child or a third party in danger of physical injury to the third party or the child

Kidnapping is frequently overcharged compared with other serious felony crimes in Arizona. In most cases, a grandparent who takes a child isn’t intending to do any of the above, which is why having a strong defense is critical if you’ve been accused of this crime.

Penalties for Kidnapping

According to Arizona, kidnapping is a class 2 felony crime if the grandparent doesn’t release the victim voluntarily and without injury before they are arrested or commit another crime. A class 2 felony may come with 4 to 10 years in prison. If the child is voluntarily released without injury in a safe place before arrest or the commission of another offense, however, it’s a class 4 felony and may come with 1.5 to 3.75 years in prison.

If the child is released without physical injury, due to an agreement made with the state, it’s a class 3 felony crime (punishable by a 2.5 to 7-year prison sentence). For victims who are younger than 15, the crime is a class 2 felony and comes with a life sentence in prison.

Possible Defenses for Kidnapping

Kidnapping is no small offense under Arizona law, so it’s very important to have an experienced attorney on your side. Simply restraining someone isn’t enough to receive a kidnapping conviction. A common defense for kidnapping is that the accused didn’t intend to hold the child for any of the reasons listed earlier in the article.

This offense is commonly charged due to domestic disputes between family members. For example, one parent may pick their child up from school when it was supposed to be the other parent’s day with them. This can easily spiral into a kidnapping accusation but shouldn’t result in a conviction since the person taking the child didn’t intend to hold the child for ransom or subject them to harm in another way.

FAQ on Visitation, Adoption, and Custody

Here are some commonly asked questions regarding custodial and visitation rights in Arizona:

Q: What does the court consider when determining visitation rights?

A: As mentioned, grandparents can seek to attain visitation rights to see their grandchildren. The state will look at relevant factors, such as the relationship between the child and grandparent and the grandparent’s motivation, along with the motivation of the person denying visitation. The court will also look at whether the amount of time requested will have a negative impact on the child’s schedule. If the child’s parent has died, the court will consider the potential advantages of keeping a relationship with the grandparent.

Q: Can grandparents adopt their grandchild?

A: If they meet the legal requirements, grandparents can adopt their grandchild. In most cases, the grandparent will pursue temporary custody before attempting to officially adopt the child. State law mandates that all visitation rights end once a child is placed for adoption or adopted. So, if someone else adopts the child, the grandparent may have their rights terminated (unless it’s a stepparent who is adopting them) without notice of the adoption.

Q: What is needed to obtain custody rights for my grandchild?

A: A grandparent can pursue custody if it’s detrimental for the child to stay living with their current custodian. In other cases, a grandparent can request custody if they are already acting as a parent for the child or if other custodial arrangements haven’t already been made. You also have a valid case for pursuing custody if the child’s legal parents are separated, divorced, were never married, or one of them has passed away. If you don’t meet one of these requirements, your petition will likely be dismissed.

What to Do if You’re Facing Charges

Kidnapping is a serious crime and may come with lengthy prison terms on top of other penalties. If you were charged with kidnapping in Arizona, it’s imperative that you speak with a criminal law attorney as soon as possible.

Call the JacksonWhite Criminal Law team at (480) 467-4370 to discuss your case today.

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