Under common law kidnapping was only a misdemeanor, but in most states of the United States it is now punishable by death or life imprisonment if there are no extenuating circumstances. The kidnapping and murder of the son of Charles A. Lindbergh in 1932 led to a federal statute prescribing severe penalties for transporting the victims of kidnapping across state or national boundaries. The practice of kidnapping, in the wider and not strictly legal sense, has been known since the beginnings of history. It was common as a method for procuring slaves, and it has also been employed by brigands and revolutionaries to obtain money through ransom or to hold hostages whose safe release was dependent on the freeing of political prisoners.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Crime and Law Enforcement