The Difference between Kidnapping and Unlawful Restraint

kidnapping and unlawful restraint, Connecticut criminal defense lawyerKidnapping and unlawful restraint are a pair of related crimes under Connecticut law that both have to do with restricting a person’s freedom of movement. However, the two crimes are of very different grades. Kidnapping can be charged as a Class A or B felony, while unlawful restraint can only be a Class D felony or a Class A misdemeanor. The difference between the two crimes is the fact that unlawful restraint only requires the offender to restrict the victim’s freedom, while kidnapping requires a person to have actually abducted the victim.

Understanding Unlawful Restraint

Connecticut law lays out the basic requirements for unlawful restraint in General Statutes § 53a-96. That section of the law defines unlawful restraint in the second degree, which is a broad crime defined simply as one person’s restraining another. There is also a crime of unlawful restraint in the first degree, which occurs when one person’s restraint of another places the victim at substantial risk of personal injury.

The breadth of this crime is important to understand for the purposes of distinguishing it from kidnapping. A person can be charged with unlawful restraint in any circumstance where they restrict another person’s ability to move around, and the charge of unlawful restraint can often apply in addition to other criminal charges. For instance, it often accompanies physical violence, such as placing someone in a chokehold, which may also make the person the subject of a battery charge. However, the charge can also stand alone. For example, if a person blocks another person’s car into a parking space during an incident of road rage, that could qualify as unlawful restraint, even if no other crime were committed.

Kidnapping in Connecticut

The basic crime of kidnapping in the second degree is set out in General Statutes § 53a-94, which makes it a Class B felony to “abduct another person.” The law increases the crime to kidnapping in the first degree if it is done with certain motives. Some of these motives include collecting a ransom or sexually assaulting the victim.

According to the 2008 Connecticut Supreme Court case State v. Salamon, the key to distinguishing kidnapping from unlawful restraint is that kidnapping requires the perpetrator to abduct the victim, rather than merely restraining their freedom. Under Connecticut law, abduction is a restraint of a person’s freedom done either by hiding the victim in a secret place or threatening them with physical force. The law also states that restraints may occur incident to some other crime, but that those restraints would not qualify as a kidnapping.

For instance, a person who robs a victim at gunpoint would restrain the person long enough to take their money, but that restraint would merely be “incidental” to the actual crime. This is well demonstrated by the Connecticut Supreme Court case State v. Sanseverino, which involved a defendant charged with kidnapping after holding a victim down to sexually assault her, and then releasing her. The court decided that his actions qualified as unlawful restraint, but not kidnapping since he only restricted the victim’s movement enough to complete the accompanying crime.

Contact an Experienced Hartford, CT Defense Lawyer

Criminal law is full of subtle, but important, distinctions. If you have been charged with unlawful restraint, kidnapping, or some other crime, contact a skilled Hartford, Connecticut criminal defense attorney at Woolf Law Firm, LLC today to learn more about your charges and your options. Call [[phone1]] to schedule an initial consultation.

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