Federal Kidnapping Act

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Federal Kidnapping Act
Great Seal of the United States
Other short titlesLindbergh Law
Long titleAn Act forbidding the transportation of any person in interstate or foreign commerce, kidnapped, or otherwise unlawfully detained, and making such act a felony.
Acronyms (colloquial)FKA
NicknamesFederal Kidnapping Act of 1932
Enacted bythe 72nd United States Congress
EffectiveJune 22, 1932
Public lawPub.L. 72–189
Statutes at Large47 Stat. 326
Titles amended18 U.S.C.: Crimes and Criminal Procedure
U.S.C. sections created18 U.S.C. ch. 55 § 1201 et seq.
Legislative history
  • Introduced in the Senate as S. 1525 by Roscoe C. Patterson (RMO) on June 3, 1932
  • Committee consideration by Senate Judiciary, House Judiciary
  • Passed the Senate on June 8, 1932 (Passed)
  • Passed the House on July 17, 1932 (Passed)
  • Signed into law by President Herbert Hoover on June 22, 1932[1]

Following the historic Lindbergh kidnapping (the abduction and murder of Charles Lindbergh's toddler son), the United States Congress adopted a federal kidnapping statute—known as the Federal Kidnapping Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1201(a)(1) (popularly known as the Lindbergh Law, or Little Lindbergh Law)—which was intended to let federal authorities step in and pursue kidnappers once they had crossed state lines with their victim. The Act became law in 1932.

The theory behind the Lindbergh Law was that federal law enforcement intervention was necessary because state and local law enforcement officers could not effectively pursue kidnappers across state lines. Since federal law enforcement, such as FBI agents, have national law enforcement authority, Congress believed they could do a much more effective job of dealing with kidnappings than could state, county, and local authorities.[2]

A provision of the law provides exception for parents who abduct their own minor children.

Several states implemented their own versions of this law, known as "Little Lindbergh" laws, covering acts of kidnapping that did not cross state lines. In some states, if the victim was physically harmed in any manner, the crime qualified for capital punishment. This was what occurred in the Caryl Chessman case in California. Following the April 8, 1968 decision by the United States Supreme Court in United States v. Jackson, kidnapping alone no longer constitutes a capital offense.


  • Louis Jones, Jr., perpetrator of the Murder of Tracie McBride, was convicted of kidnapping resulting in death[3]
  • Arthur Gooch, who was put to death for kidnapping two police officers in Texas before releasing them unharmed in Oklahoma


  1. ^ "Federal Kidnap Act Is Signed by Hoover". The Owosso Argus-Press. AP. 1932-06-23. p. 11. Retrieved 2015-01-31.
  2. ^ Theoharis, Athan G. The FBI: a comprehensive reference guide, Greenwood, 1998. ISBN 978-0-89774-991-6. Page 112. Retrieved November 10, 2009
  3. ^ "United States of America, Plaintiff-appellee, v. Louis Jones, Defendant-appellant, 132 F.3d 232 (5th Cir. 1998)." Justia. January 5, 1998. Retrieved on March 1, 2019.

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