Federal Kidnapping Act

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Federal Kidnapping Act
Great Seal of the United States
Long title An Act to revise, codify, and enact into positive law, Title 18 of the United States Code, entitled "Crimes and Criminal Procedure".
Nicknames Lindbergh Law
Enacted by the 80th United States Congress
Effective June 25, 1948
Public Law 80-772
Statutes at Large 62 Stat. 760, Chapter 645
Titles amended 18 U.S.C.: Crimes and Criminal Procedure
U.S.C. sections created Chapter 55 § 1201
Legislative history
  • Introduced in the House as H.R. 3190 by John M. Robsion (RKY) on April 24, 1947
  • Committee consideration by Committee on the Judiciary
  • Passed the House on April 24, 1947 (passed)
  • Passed the Senate on June 14, 1948 (passed)
  • Reported by the joint conference committee on June 18, 1948; agreed to by the Senate on June 18, 1948 (passed) and by the House on June 18, 1948 (passed)
  • Signed into law by President Harry S. Truman on June 25, 1948

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 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.[1]

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 death penalty law revisions by the United States Supreme Court during the 1970s, kidnapping alone no longer constitutes a capital offense.

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


  1. ^ Theoharis, Athan G. The FBI: a comprehensive reference guide, Greenwood, 1998. ISBN 978-0-89774-991-6. Page 112. Retrieved November 10, 2009