Davila v. State Rules in Jacksonville Parent-Kidnapping Case

In the recent case of Davila v. State, the Florida Supreme Court ruled on whether a parent can be charged with kidnapping their own child.

The short of it is yes, a parent can face Jacksonville kidnapping charges for taking their own child, based on the language of the law.According to Florida Statutes 787.01, kidnapping means to forcibly, secretly or by imprisoning a person against their will hold them for several reasons:
-For ransom or as a hostage
-To commit a felony
-To inflict bodily harm upon them
-To interfere with a government operation
The law also states that “confinement of a child under the age of 13 is against her or his will within the meaning of this subsection if such confinement is without the consent of her or his parent or legal guardian.

Based on the way the statute is written, it is plausible for a parent to be convicted of kidnapping their own child or even for a prankster to be convicted of kidnapping a person as a joke or a fraternity hazing. And the penalties in Florida are no joke. Kidnapping is punishable by 30 years to life in prison, if a person is convicted.

The subsection about a person being confined without consent of a child’s parent seems interesting, given this case. In Davila, the man was convicted of kidnapping his 11-year-old son between February and July 2000. Prosecutors alleged, among other things, that Davila intended to hold his son against his will with the intent to harm him.

According to the boy’s testimony, his parents would hold him in a storage room or bathroom for weeks on end for misbehaving. He also testified he was beaten while confined this way. Davila was convicted and sentenced to life in prison on the kidnapping charges. On appeal, he argued that a parent can’t be convicted of kidnapping his own child.

After the Third District Court of Appeal and the Second District Court of Appeal had conflicting rulings on similar issues, the state’s high court took up the case. Only one justice disagreed with the court’s ruling that a parent can be convicted of kidnapping. In its opinion, the justices wrote that had legislators wanted to give an exception for parents charged with kidnapping, it would have done so.

In a dissenting opinion, one justice argued that while he believes a child can be kidnapped by his or her parents, the language in the statute about a child being under 13 affords them more protection than a child over 13.

In part, the justice rejected the majority’s opinion that if the Legislature had intended to exempt parents from being able to commit the crime of kidnapping, it would have expressed it in the statute. He argued that it isn’t right for judges to interpret what lawmakers really meant, but only read what is written.


The Forbess Law Firm has been aiding clients who face criminal charges in Jacksonville for more than a decade and is here to provide aggressive criminal defense to anyone accused of a crime. If you or a loved one requires a Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer, contact our firm today. We are available through our website or by calling us at 904-634-0900.

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