Kidnapping is generally a state charge, although there are several situations that might occur where it becomes a federal offense. In these cases, federal jurisdiction takes over. Some of these situations include:
-- Kidnapping a foreign office, an official guest or an internationally protected person outside of the United States.
-- International parental kidnapping of a child who is less than 16 years old.
-- Transporting a kidnapped victim out of the state where the crime occurred or into a foreign country.
-- Kidnapping a federal employee or officer.
In most cases, when a parent takes a child, kidnapping is not usually the crime that is charged unless the parent takes a child under 16 years old out of the country. However, if a parent has had his or her parental rights terminated, then the term "parent" does not apply.
As for an "internationally protected person," federal jurisdiction will apply if the offender is a United States national, the offender is found in the United States or if the victim is United States agent, employee, officer or representative.
When a child is kidnapped and is under 18 years of age, and the offender is not a parent, grandparent, sister, brother, uncle, aunt or someone who has legal custody, then the sentencing for the offense will be increased according to the situation the child was placed in and the severity of the treatment the child received.
Federal kidnapping charges are serious and the penalties reflect such. A Pennsylvania attorney who is experienced in federal court is needed to help develop a strong defense.
Source: Office of the United States Attorneys, "1034. Kidnapping—Federal Jurisdiction," accessed March 18, 2016