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13 Am. J. Crim. L. 1 (1985-1986)
Kidnapping: A Modern Definition

handle is hein.journals/ajcl13 and id is 9 raw text is: Articles
Kidnapping: A Modern Definition
John L. Diamond*
Although kidnapping is an infamous crime, perceived by the pub-
lic with both dread and morbid curiosity,1 and the subject of fine liter-
ature,' it is also a crime that has eluded meaningful definition.' The
common law offense is now codified in state penal laws, but the lan-
guage in these statutes is frequently ambiguous and potentially
* Associate Professor of Law, University of California, Hastings College of the Law.
B.A., Yale College; Dipl. Crim., Emmanuel College, Cambridge University; J.D., Columbia Law
The author would like to express his appreciation for the excellent research assistance of
William Green, Michael V. Hoffman, Mark A. Landis, Daven G. Lowhurst, and Joseph R.
The author also expresses his gratitude to Professors David I. Levine, Scott E. Sundby and
Louis B. Schwartz of the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, for their helpful
comments on an earlier draft.
1. According to a study by Ernest Alix, the New York Times reported 1,703 cases of kid-
napping occurring entirely or in part in the United States between 1874 and 1974, including 236
classic kidnapping[s] for ransom. E.K. ALIX, RANSOM KIDNAPPING IN AMERICA, 1874-1974
166-67 (1978). It has been suggested that the development of the automobile and organized
crime during the prohibition years led to an increase in ransom kidnapping in the late 1920's and
1930's. Id. at 43-49, 67-77; see also, Kanter, Kidnapping, in 3 ENCYCLOPEDIA OF CRIME AND
JUSTICE 993-94 (1983); Note, A Rationale of the Law of Kidnapping, 53 COLUM. L. REV. 540
One of the most infamous kidnappings of this century took place on March 1,1932, when
the infant son of Charles Lindberg was abducted from his home and eventually killed. State v.
Hauptmann, 115 N.J.L. 412, 180 A. 809 (1935). However, the alleged kidnapper, Bruno Rich-
ard Hauptman, was not prosecuted for kidnapping. At that time, in New Jersey, kidnapping was
only a high misdemeanor and therefore the statutory felony murder rule could only be invoked if
the prosecutor could find some other crime that would supply the necessary felony. Since the
stealing of a child could not sustain a burglary conviction at common law, the prosecutor chose
to allege that Hauptmann had intended to steal the child's sleeping suit. The prosecutor was
successful and Hauptmann was executed. Id.; see also Kanter, supra, at 993, 994-95.
2. See, eg., R.L. STEVENSON, KIDNAPPED (1886).
3. See MODEL PENAL CODE § 212.1 comment at 220-22 (1980).
4. For example, the New York Court of Appeals could at one point do no better than to
merely explain that the New York statute was intended to cover kidnapping in the conven-
tional sense in which that term has now come to have acquired meaning. People v. Levy, 15

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