California Penal Code 210 – Extortion Posing As A Kidnapper

Extortion carries felony consequences and will affect your gun rights and immigration status. You can face similar consequences if suspected of extortion posing as a kidnapper. These are offenses that no one should take lightly. When facing such accusations, it is highly recommended you seek the legal aid of an expert criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible.

Let’s take a closer look at how California defines this law. This review will give us a more critical understanding of the gravity of the crime and the extent of the penalties.

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What is the legal definition of extortion posing as a kidnapper?

California outlines the details of what extortion posing as a kidnapper means under Penal Code 210. The common misconception regarding this crime is that it is a combination of extortion and kidnapping. However, because it does not have to involve any actual kidnapping, simple or aggravated, it is more closely related to the state’s extortion laws.

This is because the common focus of perpetrators who are guilty of committing PC 210 is their attempt to obtain money or materials of great value. It is not so much about actually kidnapping or physically harming another person.

Extortion posing as a kidnapper, PC 210 – This law states it is a crime to:

  • Try to acquire, gain, or obtain:
    • a ransom, reward, or to extort or exact any money and/or items of value,
    • In exchange for the release of an alleged kidnapped individual,
    • by posing as;
      • The kidnapper,
      • The actual perpetrator who has detained the victim,
      • Someone who aided and/or abetted the actual kidnapper, or
      • As any person who supposedly has the power to secure the release of the allegedly kidnapped person.

Now, if someone does kidnap another person for the purposes of attaining money, or other things of value, they would be guilty of PC 209, aggravated kidnapping. A conviction for this offense carries harsher felony consequences than PC 210.

Associated Offenses

The following list is similar offenses to extortion by posing as a kidnapper and should not be overlooked when facing the PC 210 offense. This is because it is entirely possible to face additional charges. Multiple convictions will lead to longer county jail or prison sentences and higher court fines.

California PC 518 – extortion;

This law makes it a crime to use force or threats to coerce another individual to give up their money or property or to pressure a public official into performing an official act.

California PC 207 – kidnapping;

Moving another person a substantial distance without their consent by use of force, fear, or fraud is prohibited under this law.

California PC 209 – aggravated kidnapping;

You commit this crime if you kidnap another person to collect a ransom or reward or to commit other criminal acts such as robbery, rape, or torture.

California PC 210.5 – false imprisonment to protect from arrest;

Also referred to as using a human shield, this law makes it a crime to take, imprison, or use another person as a hostage or as a means of avoiding getting caught or arrested by authorities.

California PC 236 – False imprisonment;

This law prohibits the act of restraining, detaining, or confining another individual, unlawfully violating their personal liberty, and doing so without this person’s consent.

California PC 278 – child abduction;

You commit this crime if you do not have the right of custody over a child, yet you steal or take a child away and keep them from their parents or legal guardians.

What The Prosecution Must Do

There are certain facts of the case the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt to get a conviction for PC 210. These factors are also referred to as:

Elements of the Crime

  • Sought to acquire, gain, or obtain:
    • a ransom or reward, or
    • to extort or exact any money and/or items of value,
  • In exchange for the release of an alleged kidnapped person by posing as;
    • The kidnapper,
    • The actual individual who has detained the victim,
    • A person who aided and/or abetted the actual perpetrator, or
    • As anyone who seemingly has the power to obtain the release of a kidnap victim.

The defendant is effectively guilty of committing a type of extortion when they purposely seek to obtain money or valuables by lying about another, more grievous crime. Simple kidnapping is a felony, but aggravated kidnapping carries a potential life sentence. Not only is the defendant guilty of raising false hope about saving an alleged victim of a heinous crime, but they are illustrating that committing fraud is worth telling the lie.

Who Can Face Charges

These are just some examples that illustrate who can be charged with extortion posing as a kidnapper under PC 210. If you or someone you know can relate to any of these situations, finding a legal defense lawyer should be a priority.

Example 1:

Jonathan had a record of extortion and was following a kidnapping case in his area closely. The parents of the kidnapped victim were offering a reward for their child’s’ safe return. He posed as someone who can contact the kidnapper and negotiate. So he convinced the parents of the victim to give him part of the reward in advance so that he could negotiate the release of their loved one. As soon as they transferred the reward money, he packed his belongings into his truck and planned to leave town.

Jonathan falsely claimed he could secure the release of the kidnapped victim in exchange for part of the reward money. He did not know the kidnapper nor could he legitimately negotiate the victims’ release. He is guilty of committing extortion posing as someone who had the power to influence a kidnapped person’s freedom. He could be charged with PC 210.

Example 2:

Snyder was desperate to make some quick cash and disappear. He had a criminal record and a warrant out for his arrest. A teenager from a wealthy family had gone missing. He called the parents, claiming he aided the kidnapper in taking their child. He stated he could prevent the teen from getting hurt if the parents complied. He asked for the full reward to be transferred within the hour and their child would be left on their front doorstep before morning. The parents cooperated with his demands and transferred the money right away.

However, that evening, their teenager came home claiming they had run-away and decided to come home when they saw the missing posters. No one ever kidnapped them. The parents reported the extortion. Snyder was charged with PC 210 for falsely claiming a child was kidnapped and lying about his involvement with the fictional kidnapper.

In this case, there was no actual kidnapping. How can Snyder face this charge if no one was ever kidnapped? As stated in California’s definition of PC 210, this statute focuses on the extortion aspect of the crime. The fact that Snyder took advantage of the parents’ worry by causing them to fear for their child’s’ safety and/or life, is an immoral and cruel act. To cause this kind of mental anguish in exchange for money is a form of aggravated extortion. Thus, even if no kidnapping took place, Snyder could still face charges for extortion by posing as someone who helped commit a kidnapping to collect money.

Example 3:

Karl watched the news closely about an 8-year-old child who had been kidnapped. He called the parents and claimed he was the kidnapper. He told them, if they placed twenty-thousand-dollars in a paper bag and left it in the dumpster outside a certain apartment building, he would return the child to the closest grocery store in their neighborhood.

When Karl arrived at the dumpster and picked up the paper bag, police officers were there to arrest him. Karl was charged with PC 210, extortion posing as a kidnapper.

Legal Defense

Attempting to face PC 210 charges without proper legal representation could lead to the most undesirable outcomes. Fortunately, experienced criminal defense lawyers are familiar with some of the legal defenses that have been used to dispute this offense.

The following are just a few of the common legal defenses used to challenge charges for extortion posing as a kidnapper.

Had Good Faith: Did you believe you could save the kidnapped victim?

Having good faith, or in other words, genuinely believing that you could save or attain the release of an allegedly kidnapped victim and/or were simply trying to help, regardless of any reward, does not meet the elements of the crime as specified under PC 210.

For this defense to be applicable, you would have to be completely clear of any involvement in the kidnapping. This means you had no role in the crime. Even if you accepted money or valuables for your attempt to help the supposed kidnapped victim, your purpose was not unlawful and you were not intending to commit any type of extortion.


Georgia watched the news closely about a child that was recently kidnapped. The police sketch of the possible kidnapper looked familiar to her. She thought she saw this culprit regularly shopping at her local Food-4-Less grocery store. She called in the tip and when nothing was done about it, she called the parents of the victim and claimed she knew where the child was. She had followed the man she thought was the kidnapper home from the Food-4-Less and noted his address. The parents got their hopes up, gave Georgia some of the reward money, and followed her to the suspected kidnappers’ home. They realized he was not the culprit that stole their child and accused Georgia of extorting them.

Georgia did not intend on collecting any money, she simply wanted to help them find the victim. She truly believed the man she saw at Food-4-Less matched the description and police sketch. She would not be guilty of PC 210 because she was acting in good faith, with no intention of lying to the kidnapped victims’ parents or the police.

False Accusations

Unfortunately, it is not unheard of for false accusations to be made. Especially in high-profile cases and when tensions are already high. If you have been falsely accused of extortion posing as a kidnapper or labeled as a person of interest in such a case, do not wait to get legal aid. Contact a defense lawyer as soon as you can.

Mistaken Identity

Law enforcement tends to respond quickly in cases where a kidnapped victim is in immediate danger of injury and/or death. In the melee of searching for the culprit(s) involved in the kidnapping, mistakes can be made. Sometimes, depending on how much media attention each case gets, a string of leads and “tips” from concerned viewers could cause some confusion. Sadly, this might lead to cases of mistaken identity and wrongful arrests.

Penalties for PC 210

If convicted of extortion posing as a kidnapper, you face:


A possible 2, 3, or 4 years in state prison.

Enhanced Penalties

The standard penalties for a PC 210 conviction may not include all the legal consequences the defendant could face. The victims of the crime are within their rights to sue them. Civil suits could result in further financial repercussions. The defendant might have to pay restitution and further punitive or compensatory damages to the victims.


Mike was convicted of PC 210. He claimed he knew who kidnapped a missing child. The parents of the missing child skipped their house payments, cleaned out their savings accounts, and sold their furniture, jewelry, vehicles, and other valuable personal belongings to get the reward money for Mike in exchange for bringing them their child.

Mike lied and had no idea where their missing child was. He was caught and charged for his crime. The parents sued him for the hardships they endured to provide him with the reward money. Mike was held responsible for returning the full reward he collected as well as paying any fines, late fees, and legal fees the parents accrued as a result of his extortion. If the parents lose their home because they used their house payment to reward Mike, he could also be held monetarily responsible for that loss.

Penalties for Associated Offenses

California PC 518 – extortion;


A potential state prison sentence of up to four years, and/or

Fines as high as ten thousand dollars.

California PC 207 – kidnapping;


A possible three, five, or eight years in a California state prison, and/or

Fines as high as ten thousand dollars.

California PC 209 – aggravated kidnapping;


You could face either life in prison with or without the possibility of parole.

California PC 210.5 – false imprisonment to protect from arrest;


Three, five, or eight years in state prison.

California PC 236 – False imprisonment;


Fines as high as one thousand dollars,

As long as one year in county jail.


16 months, 2 or 3 years in county jail.

California PC 278 – child abduction;


As long as one year in county jail, and/or

A possible fine of one thousand dollars.


A potential four-year state prison, and/or

Fines as high as ten thousand dollars.

Additional Penalties

Enhanced punishments depend on the details of your case and your criminal background history. However, many people do not realize there are lasting legal consequences that go beyond the scope of county jail or prison time and steep court fines. Two main questions that people under scrutiny for any crime should always consider are:

What are the Immigration consequences?

If convicted of an offense(s) listed under California’s crimes of moral turpitude, one’s immigration status will be negatively affected. Some of the crimes included on this list range from violent crimes, such as murder, rape, and torture to fraudulent offenses, like receiving stolen property or welfare fraud.

Find a criminal defense lawyer as soon as you can if facing an extortion posing as a kidnapper charge. It is a felony offense that could be scrutinized as a crime of moral turpitude (CIMT) which could lead to permanent immigration issues. It all depends on the details of the case and one’s criminal background history.

“Immigration consequences” essentially means any visa or green card held by a non-citizen could be revoked. If a non-citizen was attempting to gain legal citizenship and submitted an application for a U.S. passport, it will be rejected. A non-citizen could also be deported and denied re-entry back into the United States.  

Are Gun Rights impacted?

The second amendment of the United States Constitution gives every citizen the right to keep and bear arms. However, this right is only a privilege and can be lost if a person is convicted of a felony. California’s felon with a firearm law, PC 29800, directly states an individual who is indicted for felonious acts no longer has the right to acquire, possess, or own a firearm.

Criminals are required to turn over any firearms they possess to their local police or sheriff’s department. They can also face further legal punishments if they attempt to hide their guns or flat-out refuse to hand over the weapons.

A violation of PC 29800 will result in felony penalties, including a potential three-year prison sentence and fines as high as ten thousand dollars.

Let Us Help

Finding trustworthy legal help in San Diego, Los Angeles, or Orange County does not have to be difficult. Consider the Law Office of Anna R. Yum, where you can expect a high level of expertise and an aggressive fight for your rights.

As an award-winning criminal defense lawyer, Attorney Yum understands how life-changing a conviction can be. So, if you or someone you love is facing a PC 210 offense or any of the related charges, let us help. To schedule your no-obligation, free consultation give us a call at 619-233-4433 or use our online contact form.