We’re trying something new for legal thriller lovers! We’ll be discussing a new book each month and talking about a legal issue or crime that was presented in the book. This month’s selection is Along Came a Spider by James Patterson.
In Along Came A Spider, Patterson’s plot revolves around ransom for the return of a kidnapped child. Ransom is a felony in Texas, as in other states. A defendant has committed the crime of kidnapping if he/she intentionally or knowingly abducts another person. The most publicized cases involve kidnapping of a child by one of the child’s parents.
Along Came A Spider (2001) was Patterson’s first Alex Cross movie starting Morgan Freeman. Another favorite kidnap movie is Ransom (1996) starting Mel Gibson, Rene Russo, & Gary Sinise. If you’ve never seen it, its worth renting or buying from the box store bin. I remember waiting in line with a group of self-employed movie lovers trying to beat the crowds at noon on a Thursday when Ransom first came out.
Of course, the movies never stick to the letter of the law, but if you want to know what reality dictates for the crime of kidnapping, here’s the low down:
Aggravated kidnapping involves kidnapping combined with the intent to do one of the following:
- Hold the victim for a ransom or reward;
- Use the victim as a shield or hostage;
- Aid in the commission of a felony or an escape after committing the felony;
- Inflict bodily injury on the victim or sexually violate or abuse the victim;
- Terrorize the victim or another person;
- Interfere with the performance of any governmental or political function;
- Uses or exhibits a deadly weapon during the crime.
In court, there are defenses to kidnapping charges, including:
- The defendant voluntarily released the victim in a safe place (This is only a partial defense.)
- Lack of intent to use deadly force
- Lack of knowledge
- The defendant is a relative of the victim
- The defendant's only intent was to gain lawful control of the victim
Most states classify the crime as a third degree felony. This usually carries a penalty of two to ten years in a state prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000. If the crime is elevated to aggravated kidnapping, the defendant will be charged with a first degree felony. This carries a penalty of five to ninety-nine years in a state prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
In the case involved in Along Came A Spider, Patterson does not get to the penalty phase because of a dramatic twist in the book. Check it out to see what happens!