Parental Kidnapping, Criminal Contempt of Court, and the Double Jeopardy Clause: A Recommendation for State Courts

Brummel, Valerie | January 1, 2016

In states such as Illinois, courts invoke the Double Jeopardy Clause of the United States Constitution to protect parental kidnappers who have already been held in contempt of court from subsequent prosecution under state child kidnapping laws. State courts should not apply the Double Jeopardy Clause to protect parental kidnappers; instead, they should follow the example of the Ohio state courts by recognizing that contempt of court and child kidnapping are not the same crime for double jeopardy purposes. The many differences between the crimes of contempt and parental kidnapping, the disparity between sanctions delivered by the court for contempt and outlined by state legislatures for child kidnapping, and the inability of contempt sanctions to adequately punish parental kidnappers for the harm inflicted on their children, all provide reasons why the Double Jeopardy Clause should not apply to contempt of court and child kidnapping. This recommendation will help state courts better deter and punish parental kidnapping.