For the last three years, the Missouri State Highway Patrol reported an average of over 7,250 missing children per year. Thankfully, law enforcement finds most of these children before the year is over.
Not every missing child is the victim of a stranger. Many of these reported cases involve a specific type of abduction known as parental kidnapping.
Parental kidnapping and penalties
Missouri law defines parental kidnapping as the removal, taking, detainment, concealment or enticement of a child with the intent to deprive another party of his or her custodial rights. For the law to consider this parental kidnapping, rather than child kidnapping, the abductor must already have a right to custody of the child.
Parental kidnapping is, at minimum, a class E felony but can increase in severity due to certain conditions. If the parent detains or conceals the child for 90 to 119 days, the offense becomes a class D felony. After 120 days of concealment, it becomes a class B felony. Also, a parent who gains legal custody after kidnapping their child still faces the kidnapping charges. In addition to any fines, jail sentencing or other punishment, the courts may require the convicted parent to pay back any fees incurred during the search for the child.
Custodial interference involves a third party knowingly removing or coercing a child from his or her legal custodian and taking him or her to someone else. Custodial interference is a class A misdemeanor unless the abductor takes the child across state lines. In this case, the crime becomes a class E felony.