In any criminal case, the State must prove each element of the charged offense in order to obtain a guilty verdict. Thus, if the State cannot demonstrate an element of a crime, the defendant should not be convicted, and any conviction based on inadequate facts should be overturned. In a recent case, a New Jersey appellate court discussed what the State must establish to prove guilt for a kidnapping offense, specifically discussing the element of a substantial period of confinement. If you are charged with kidnapping or any other felony, it is advisable to consult a knowledgeable New Jersey criminal defense attorney to assess what evidence the State may produce against you.

Factual History of the Case

It is reported that the defendant held a knife to a woman’s neck and forced her to perform sex acts for several hours, despite her protests. She was ultimately rescued by a passerby. The defendant was charged with numerous crimes, including first-degree kidnapping. He was convicted as charged, after which he appealed, arguing that the State had failed to prove the substantial period of confinement requirement of the kidnapping offense. His appeal was granted, after which the State appealed. On appeal, the appellate court reinstated the defendant’s conviction.

The Substantial Period of Confinement Element of Kidnapping Crimes

Under the relevant statute, a person that moves a party a substantial distance or unlawfully confines someone else for a substantial period will be found guilty of kidnapping if the act is undertaken for the purpose of committing a crime or inflicting bodily harm. Further, unless a defendant releases his or her victim unharmed and in a safe environment, kidnapping is a first-degree crime. The statute does not define the terms substantial distance or significant period, however.

In determining the meaning of the law, the New Jersey courts have held that not every confinement of a victim constitutes a kidnapping. For example, kidnapping does not occur when a person robbing a house places the owner of the house in a closet, or when a person stealing from a bank locks people in a safe. Rather, it must be shown that the period of confinement creates a scenario where the victim is isolated and exposed to an increased risk of harm than he or she would have been absent the confinement. The rise in the risk of harm must be more than a trivial increase, however.

The court explained that kidnapping convictions have been upheld where the confinement was not long but that acts committed against the victim during the confinement were severe. In the subject case, the victim was confined for approximately four to five hours, during which she was repeatedly sexually assaulted. As such, the court found there was sufficient evidence to uphold the defendant’s conviction.

Speak to a Proficient New Jersey Attorney

The State bears the burden of proving each element of a charged offense, and if it cannot meet this burden, a jury should not issue a guilty verdict. If you are faced with charges of kidnapping or any other crime, it is wise to speak to an attorney regarding your rights. The proficient New Jersey criminal defense attorneys of The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall possess the skills and knowledge needed to attain favorable outcomes, and if you hire us to represent you, we will fight tirelessly on your behalf. We can be reached through our form online or at 877-450-8301 to schedule a meeting.