The FBI's role in interstate and international abduction cases


Parental kidnapping is unfortunately not unheard of in Virginia. The phrase usually refers to cases where a child is kidnapped by the non-custodial parent and taken to another state or country. It is important for the custodial parent to know that the Federal Bureau of Investigation can play an important role in finding a missing child. Federal law defines a missing child as one below the age of 18 whose whereabouts are not known to the legal custodian.

A custodial parent can contact the local field office of the FBI to report a parental kidnapping. There are both civil and criminal processes to tackle such situations. In the civil process, the emphasis is more on getting the child back home, and not necessarily to arrest the kidnapper. In the criminal process, the prime focus is on apprehending the parent. However, the arrest of the kidnapping parent will usually lead to the release and safe return of the child.

When pursuing an abducting parent the FBI can work with other law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, the Department of Justice and the custodial parent. However, the FBI has no jurisdiction outside the United States except on the high seas and other places specifically authorized by Congress. They can, however, work with law enforcement agencies of other countries and Interpol.

To involve the FBI in investigations regarding missing or kidnapped children, there must be a sufficient basis to believe that an interstate or international abduction has taken place. Local police should send a written request to the FBI seeking their assistance. Before the FBI will get involved in a parental kidnapping investigation, the relevant state agencies must agree to extradite the person from anywhere in the U.S. if the FBI makes the arrest.

Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation, "Family Child Abductions," accessed June 12, 2015

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