What Is Kidnapping? - Definition, Facts & Statistics

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  • 0:00 Definition
  • 0:28 Notable Kidnapping Cases
  • 2:34 Facts and Statistics
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Earl Crowe

Earl has over 20 years of lecturing experience and has a master's degree in criminal justice.

What do Charles Augustus Lindbergh Jr., Etan Patz, and Tanya Nicole Kach all have in common? They were all kidnap victims. Learn more about the definition of kidnapping, pertinent facts, and the alarming statistics.


In general, kidnapping is defined as removing or confining an individual against their will without the legal authority to do so. The act of kidnapping can be done by physical means, coercion, or fraud. Many states have their own definition, but one key element exists throughout the United States: For the act to be considered a kidnapping, the victim must be taken illegally.

Notable Kidnapping Cases

One of the most famous kidnapping cases in United States history is that of Charles Augustus Lindbergh Jr., the 20-month-old son of Colonel Charles Lindbergh, the famous aviator. Baby Lindbergh was taken from the family residence on March 1, 1932. This kidnapping did not have a happy ending. On May 12, 1932, the body of Charles Augusts Lindbergh Jr. was discovered partially buried near a highway.

The Lindbergh case was the catalyst for the federal government in writing and passing the Federal Kidnapping Act, which is known as the Lindbergh Law. Prior to the Lindbergh case, local law enforcement officers, by law, could not travel across state lines in order to apprehend the suspect(s). The Federal Kidnapping Act allowed federal law enforcement officers/agents to assume authority and track down kidnappers and the victims anywhere in the United States.

On May 25, 1979, a boy named Etan Patz disappeared from Manhattan. This case was significant, because Etan Patz was the first missing child to have his face put on a milk carton. Unfortunately, Etan Patz was never found, and in 2001 he was declared dead.

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