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View Full Version : Kidnapping/Harboring Runaway Laws and Process



theninjkaymarie
08-09-2015, 01:12 AM
So I have a character that basically runs away and joins a circus. She's 17 and from Dallas, Texas. Her parents call the police and report her as a missing person, and claim she's been kidnapped (one of the circus members parked his red van across the street for a couple of hours while he waited on her to come out--she has abusive parents and he wanted to be there in case something happened while she was trying to get away). One month later, she learns of a friend who is in the hospital and tries to sneak back to see him, with the same person who had the red van. They are caught at the hospital, and the police arrest him and take her back to her family.

The guy they arrest is 19 years old and is not a US citizen (he is a French citizen). She has been living with him in France (the circus members have psychic abilities and one of them can teleport, so there were no issues leaving the country) for the past month. I know in Texas for the most part, although illegal, 17-year-olds are never actually punished for running away but are simply returned to their legal guardians.

So, first of all, would the police take her word over he parents' word if she claims she ran away but they claim she was kidnapped, especially if she does not mention that her parents are abusive? The guy they arrest has several smaller crimes on his record, and she doesn't have anything on her record, i.e., she doesn't seem like a troubled teenager who might run away. Could the parents claim stockholm syndrome and get the police to charge him with kidnapping?

If not, it is still illegal to harbor a runaway in Texas, but I have not been able to really find the exact punishment for it online, especially with his past record. Also, since they kept her in France, and he is a French citizen, would this change where he was prosecuted/what he's prosecuted for? I'm sure if allowing a runaway to stay in your home is illegal, taking one out of the country probably has more consequences.

If he has past offenses on his record, does this make his punishment greater? The offenses are a couple of traffic violations, one count of petty theft, and a minor drug possession, which were committed in Europe. He is also diagnosed with Bipolar disorder, if that would change anything.

Basically, I'm trying to figure out if it's realistic that they would hold him in jail for a few days while they sorted things out, then get out where he could return to Europe-- like could the girl make a deal with her parents that she wouldn't press charges for their abuse if they would drop the charges on him, or something similar? I need him to be in jail for a few days but no more than three weeks, then be allowed to leave and pay a fine or something.

If there are any other factors I've left out, let me know, and I'll answer them. Thanks in advance for the help!

cornflake
08-09-2015, 06:54 AM
It doesn't sound like he'd land in jail to me. Her parents say she was kidnapped, that's a big deal that'd be investigated and they'd probably figure out she ran off with her bf sooner rather than later, from her computer, friends, whatever.

If no one figures that out, which seems weird, I don't know how they're 'caught' at the hospital or by whom. If the cops find her, thinking she'd been kidnapped (which, again, see above, seems unlikely), and she says 'it's my bf that my parents hate,' they'll likely believe her barring any evidence to the contrary. If they felt like investigating, presumably she'd be able to easily prove it - she'd have texts to plan the whole thing or him meeting her or friends who know she wanted to join the circus or etc.

Harboring a runaway I don't think anyone cares about a 17-yr-old running off with her 19-yr-old bf. Cops have better things to do, and no DA I've heard of would try to prosecute that case - no point.

jclarkdawe
08-09-2015, 07:39 AM
I'm with Cornflake. I don't see much likelihood of this working. After she leaves her parents, she'd have to go completely off the grid -- no internet, no texting, no contacting BFFs. If she makes any contact that the police find out about, there goes the kidnapping case. The parents are going to have to do a lot to sell the kidnapping, and if she's talked at all to her BFFs, the abuse is going to be probably discovered, although probably not at the level to warrant any charges. (There are a lot of hints about physical or mental abuse that aren't enough to act on.)

Statutory rape charges don't work here, as Texas has a Romeo and Juliet provision, so statutory rape charges are out. Unlikely the boyfriend would be charged with harboring her.

As far as him being held, I'd have him on an outstanding warrant, that he stays in jail until he can pay the fine.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

theninjkaymarie
08-09-2015, 07:30 PM
Actually, the circus has a policy where if she joins, she can't tell anyone where she's going (in the book they're a quite famous performing group and don't like people knowing who heir actual members are, for privacy and avoiding paparazzi, etc.) so there are no phone or internet records. She makes one phone call to the owner of the circus, telling him that she's going to join, and that's it. After she joins, she doesn't tell anyone where she's going, and there aren't really any records of it. Also, the parents have never met/seen this guy as he's a circus member who showed up the day before she runs off, so they would have no clue who he is.

So if there weren't any records when she disappears, so it actually does look like a kidnapping, would they release him as soon as she tells the police she ran away? If they didn't believe her, she doesn't have any text evidence that proves she ran away, but she could call the other circus members and they could tell the police she's been with them. Could the parents technically press any charges that could land him in jail for a few days?

Or, then, would this be a realistic thing to happen (I'll call the guy M and the girl S):
So S and M go to the hospital to try to sneak in and see her friend, who is really sick. When S and M come up the stairs to the hospital, her friend's mom recognizes her and alerts security, and they come and restrain him, then call the actual police. She tries to tell them that she ran away, but they say they have to wait on police since it is an open case, and she can talk to them about it. The police arrive and ask both of them questions about what happened, and while doing so they run his license and see that he hasn't paid the fine for some fine he hasn't paid (though I'm trying to figure out exactly what he didn't pay, since many traffic violations aren't really worried about out of state from where they were committed, and it doesn't make sense with the plot that he would have been in Texas in the last 2-3 years). M is in deep debt anyways, so it would make sense that he never could pay the fee. Neither M nor S has enough money to cover the fine. So, they toss him in the local jail until he can call someone and arrange for them to bail him out/pay the fine. If the people he's trying to contact are in France and have French cell phone numbers, I'm guessing that there would be some difficulty in contacting them with his one phone call at the police station--or would they allow him to use his cell phone to call? Would it be realistic in this case for him to be in jail for say, two days, while S tries from home to sneak behind her parents' back and make an out-of-country phone call to let the other circus members know what happened, so then they can contact the jail to sort things out with M?

Thanks for your responses, sorry, I have very little experience with the legal system.

ironmikezero
08-09-2015, 09:38 PM
If "M" is a French citizen and has a record, make sure he's in the US legally (resident alien, appropriate visa, etc.), lest he be taken into custody and turned over to Homeland Security/ICE for potential deportation.

http://www.ice.gov/

Teleportation, huh? I love this idea . . . However, his and her recent presence in Europe duly corroborated, and current presence in the US confirmed, without documented departure/entry data at authorized ports of entry is more than enough to have them both brought in for questioning.

FYI . . . International entertainment troupes (to include circuses) are very careful to have all personnel in possession of appropriate paperwork (passports, visas, etc.) as they are subject to frequent scrutiny by authorities.

cornflake
08-10-2015, 07:31 AM
Actually, the circus has a policy where if she joins, she can't tell anyone where she's going (in the book they're a quite famous performing group and don't like people knowing who heir actual members are, for privacy and avoiding paparazzi, etc.) so there are no phone or internet records. Sorry, I can't follow you from A to B to Y here. They don't want people knowing who their performers are (that's decidedly strange, as they're, you know, performers.). I'll go with it for a second, though I don't buy it at all. Anyway, that somehow means she can't tell her family or friends where she's going? That doesn't make sense to me at all. It's also kind of bananas sounding. It's not the NSA; it's a circus. In addition, if it's such a famous troupe (actually if it's any troupe), you can't just tell someone you're joining. You audition, when they have auditions, and maybe get called back and etc. It's a process. She makes one phone call to the owner of the circus, telling him that she's going to join, and that's it. After she joins, she doesn't tell anyone where she's going, and there aren't really any records of it. It's a business. Of course there are records. She's filled out forms, just to begin with. Also, the parents have never met/seen this guy as he's a circus member who showed up the day before she runs off, so they would have no clue who he is.

So if there weren't any records when she disappears, so it actually does look like a kidnapping, why would that mean it'd look like a kidnapping? It's a teenaged girl who went off with a guy. would they release him as soon as she tells the police she ran away? If they didn't believe her, why wouldn't they? she doesn't have any text evidence that proves she ran away, but she could call the other circus members and they could tell the police she's been with them. Could the parents technically press any charges that could land him in jail for a few days? For what? No. Also, no police department I know of or DA, god knows, is bothering.

Or, then, would this be a realistic thing to happen (I'll call the guy M and the girl S):
So S and M go to the hospital to try to sneak in and see her friend, who is really sick. Why're they sneaking? When S and M come up the stairs to the hospital, her friend's mom recognizes her and alerts security, Why? Wouldn't she just call the girl's parents and say, 'oh, she's here.' No kidnapper is taking their hostage to see a sick friend, so if the woman sees her at the hospital, she has to know she ran off. and they come and restrain him, then call the actual police. She tries to tell them that she ran away, but they say they have to wait on police since it is an open case, Why would hospital security know that, or care, or have come in the first place? "Hospital security, my friend's kid who they thought was kidnapped is here!" They'd say call the parents or the cops, I'd wager. and she can talk to them about it. The police arrive and ask both of them questions about what happened, and while doing so they run his license and see that he hasn't paid the fine for some fine he hasn't paid (though I'm trying to figure out exactly what he didn't pay, since many traffic violations aren't really worried about out of state from where they were committed, and it doesn't make sense with the plot that he would have been in Texas in the last 2-3 years). M is in deep debt anyways, so it would make sense that he never could pay the fee. Neither M nor S has enough money to cover the fine. So, they toss him in the local jail until he can call someone and arrange for them to bail him out/pay the fine. If the people he's trying to contact are in France and have French cell phone numbers, What about all their coworkers and their boss? Not in France. They may have French cell numbers, but he could just.. .dial those? I'm guessing that there would be some difficulty in contacting them with his one phone call at the police station--or would they allow him to use his cell phone to call? Would it be realistic in this case for him to be in jail for say, two days, while S tries from home to sneak behind her parents' back and make an out-of-country phone call How hard would she have to sneak to use a phone? Any phone. to let the other circus members know what happened, so then they can contact the jail to sort things out with M? I don't understand - is the circus actually in France at this point?

Thanks for your responses, sorry, I have very little experience with the legal system.

I think you've got problems with this scenario, as above. I also suspect you may be overcomplicating stuff, but I'm not sure how exactly.

theninjkaymarie
08-10-2015, 09:36 AM
Cornflake--- Thanks, you've made many great points that I will consider. There are a few things that probably can be explained by the chapters leading up to that point, which I wasn't able to include all of, especially with the first paragraph and privacy. As I mentioned, the circus members have psychic abilities, and the premise of the book is that a man discovered a way to make people stop aging (tons of other details on that but I won't go into it all as it doesn't really matter), and he's been recruiting for the last couple of centuries. However, in order to evade people realizing that they aren't aging (the government knows, but they don't want random people who want their secrets after them), they conceal their faces when performing and work very hard to make sure nobody finds out who exactly they are. Plus, they enjoy having all sorts of conspiracies following them around as it draws in more business. And because people with psychic abilities are pretty rare in the book, the circus owner typically offers any person to join that he finds with abilities, then works on training them to perform after the fact (since he has plenty of time to train them).

And as I mentioned, they have a person who can teleport other people and objects. The circus lives in France, and then their guy who can teleport moves everything over from France to wherever they have a show. So, all of the members are in France at the time of this happening.

Also, until they find S and M together, the police, nor her parents, know she ran off with a guy. She just disappears in the middle of the night and doesn't tell anyone where she's going or that she's leaving. I will have to figure out how to work out the paperwork situation, as there would be some with her joining (though it would be a little messy since the paperwork would be in France--would the French government know that she's listed as a missing person in the US, or is that database just kept in the US? The circus owner has a few connections with the French government, like they know about the whole psychic ability thing, so let's assume the whole her being in France without passing through customs isn't an issue. Also, he's got it worked out with the US as far as that M is legally allowed to be there at that time.)

With the phone call, I was wondering if he'd be able to dial out-of-country from the police station. Most phones have limitations on international calls, and it wouldn't make much sense for a local jail to have international calling set up, and if they did, in the US, it would most likely only include Canada and Mexico, right? I tried finding information on this but didn't have much luck. Would they let him call on his cell phone if he explained he needed to make an international call, or would they be concerned with monitoring the call? The same thing also kind of goes for S, as her abusive parents would quickly take away the new cell phone she got from the circus, and they definitely wouldn't have reason to have international calling on their landline. She also comes from a poor area so the neighbors also wouldn't likely have international calling either. She'd have to wait until she was able to go back to school to get on a computer to send an email, so it could take a day or two for her to contact them, if M can't call from the police station.

Maybe them catching her at the hospital isn't such a good idea... maybe he gets pulled over with her in the car on the way or something, and has the warrant out for his arrest.... I'm not really sure, I'll definitely be reworking things.

Yeah, I've always had some issues with this scene as it involves a lot of international laws, especially since they're able to go back-and-forth as they please. I basically need S to land back in her parents' house for 1-2 weeks, and to have M stay at the police station for at least overnight.

Thank you so much for the help, though!! And yeah, I have a tendency to overcomplicate things....

And sorry if anything I'm saying doesn't make much sense and is full of grammar issues. I'm exhausted and barely functioning right now, I should probably have waited until tomorrow to post this....

frimble3
08-10-2015, 11:38 AM
Re: international calling - Is this a 'thing' in the States? 'Cause I'm in Canada, I have a landline and a really basic plan, and I can make international calls, no problem, as long as I pay the bill when it comes due. I just dial the country code, the area code, and the number.
Is it an optional extra down there, like extra cable channels?
I imagine that if the circus is all that, with international connections and arrangements, they'd be willing to spring for a collect call, if money was a problem for your character.
For that matter, why can't she give the number to a better equipped friend, have the friend make the call, get a message to the circus, and have their teleporter pick her up?

jclarkdawe
08-10-2015, 05:50 PM
At a certain point, an author has to decide whether he or she is going for staying believable. I think you're going to have so much to explain that it's next to impossible.

1. People don't like giving up their internet. People stress about losing their internet communications. And the circus would be using the internet extensively. When a circus arrives in town, it has to have permits, it has to work with the state on sales taxes and food taxes, it needs to bring in food vendors, it needs to rent a location. I'm sure there's a lot more communication it needs to do.

2. This brings us to paperwork. A circus has tons of paperwork. It has to get a license to sell food, it has to report taxes (sales, food, income), each of the rides has to be certified and tested, the animals need vet checks, the performers need certification that they're in the US legally, and a few hundred other items of paperwork.

3. I remember when international communication was special. Not any more. So far this morning, I've communicated with China, Australia, and Europe. Further, look at paragraph 1 and 2 and think how much this circus is going to have to communicate. My guess is a circus would have an international 800 number, but international collect calls are only limited by one's ability to communicate the request. My guess is a fair amount of the process is automated with most collect calls. When I give my phone number to people, I always include the area code, even if it is something local. But most of my calls are not local and I'm dealing with area codes constantly. My wife is wondering when I'm going to start adding in the country code. I imagine all you'd need for a collect call to France is to dial 0 - 011 - 33 - then the phone number.

4. When a BOLO is filed, the person's name is listed on various databases. One of those is people going through customs/immigration. So when your characters go to France, their names would be registered into the database. More importantly, on their return, her name would be flagged and she would be held upon her return until her status could be determined. Even with teleporting, paperwork requirements would have to be met. It's incredibly hard to live in the US now without getting your ID checked.

5. To get the police to believe this is a kidnapping is going to need a lot of work. Resources for a kidnapping case are rather massive, and would require a lot of supporting evidence. A teenage disappearing happens frequently (at least one an hour, day in and day out). What's so special here that warrant a kidnapping case?

6. She shows up at a hospital and people continue to think she's kidnapped? And if she isn't in communication, how does she know her friend is in the hospital?

7. Arguing that the government knows but not the rest of the world doesn't tend to work. Think Area 51.

Instead of working on making this believable in the real world, work on making it believable to your readers. Fortunately, I don't think Cornflake, IronMike, and myself are likely readers of your book.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

cornflake
08-11-2015, 05:18 AM
You did mention they had psychic abilities, but I didn't get that that had to do with the circus or their performing or whatever. I thought it was a personal thing. Like, he can teleport but as far as circus-goers are concerned, he just walks on the tightrope.


Re: international calling - Is this a 'thing' in the States? 'Cause I'm in Canada, I have a landline and a really basic plan, and I can make international calls, no problem, as long as I pay the bill when it comes due. I just dial the country code, the area code, and the number.
Is it an optional extra down there, like extra cable channels?
I imagine that if the circus is all that, with international connections and arrangements, they'd be willing to spring for a collect call, if money was a problem for your character.
For that matter, why can't she give the number to a better equipped friend, have the friend make the call, get a message to the circus, and have their teleporter pick her up?

This is not a thing. I have a landline that has the most basic plan possible, because it's attached to a fax. There's no international calling on it. That doesn't mean I can't make an international call; I'd dial like regular and it'd go through. That means there's no plan in place to cover international calling or give me any special rate, so I'd pay the going rate per minute for the call I made, on the monthly bill.

theninjkaymarie
08-12-2015, 09:18 AM
This is not a thing. I have a landline that has the most basic plan possible, because it's attached to a fax. There's no international calling on it. That doesn't mean I can't make an international call; I'd dial like regular and it'd go through. That means there's no plan in place to cover international calling or give me any special rate, so I'd pay the going rate per minute for the call I made, on the monthly bill.

Hmmm, I have a friend who lives near the Canadian border who once got lost in Vancouver and had to stop for directions because her phone wouldn't work out of the US, for neither GPS nor for calling, and my friend from Honduras has to use internet-based apps on her cell phone to contact her family because she has an American cell phone here. I guess I assumed landlines worked in a similar way because I saw an ad on TV here that said it had calls to Mexico and Canada on it, but that must have just been a discount so that it wasn't expensive with the basic plan. I've never had to make an international call before so I guess I've never had to try.

And sorry for not being clear about the psychic abilities.

cornflake
08-12-2015, 09:28 AM
Hmmm, I have a friend who lives near the Canadian border who once got lost in Vancouver and had to stop for directions because her phone wouldn't work out of the US, for neither GPS nor for calling, and my friend from Honduras has to use internet-based apps on her cell phone to contact her family because she has an American cell phone here. I guess I assumed landlines worked in a similar way because I saw an ad on TV here that said it had calls to Mexico and Canada on it, but that must have just been a discount so that it wasn't expensive with the basic plan. I've never had to make an international call before so I guess I've never had to try.

And sorry for not being clear about the psychic abilities.

I was about to say I don't know how long ago that was but I don't think it's a time thing. That's not a thing on cell phones either. I used my cell in Canada eons ago - I change the plan so it's cheaper, because it'll charge you exorbitant roaming rates if you don't, but it'll work. That it wouldn't work for GPS makes no sense either. That's never been a thing, afaik. Old-school standalone GPS systems had specific maps installed sometimes (like 'North America'), but GPS on phones is different and even the old GPS had Canada added to everything automatically, because you can drive, bike, walk to it.

I'd guess both the people you're talking about didn't want to be charged high roaming fees, so didn't want to use their phones for that stuff. There's no phone that like, shuts down as you step over the border into Canada.

Yes, for the landline those ads talk about plans. It's ridiculous without a plan or package deal. The landline fax costs something like $.10 to dial out locally, and dollars a minute for international calls, but the plan/use works out. A landline used to call can get unlimited lots of stuff, or half and half (like unlimited local but pick X number of countries to cover for unlimited and every other country you call will cost you), but the basic cost is more.