May 20, 2015
State Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie has offered legislation that would make kidnapping of children by noncustodial parents a felony.
The FBI says kidnappings by noncustodial parents account for more than 75 percent of the hundreds of missing child cases in the state every year, a release by Mrs. Ritchie states.
At her bill announcement Tuesday, Sen. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, was joined by representatives of the Rochester-based National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, a survivor of a noncustodial parent kidnapping and Assemblywoman Shelley Mayer, D-Yonkers, the bill’s cosponsor.
Sen. Ritchie in her release said the bipartisan bill will “give law enforcement additional tools to investigate and solve missing children cases.”
“No parent fears anything more than the abduction of their child, and while cases of stranger abductions will always generate headlines, the fact is that 75 percent of all abductions involve a non-custodial parent or family member,” Sen. Ritchie said in the release. “The scars and trauma from these cases are as deep and lasting as those involving stranger abductions. By enacting this legislation, we can give law enforcement and prosecutors the tools they need to help safely return abducted children and, hopefully, reduce the occurrence of these tragic cases in New York State.”
Scott Berne, a child abducted by his own mother, spoke at the news conference about his experience, and how his mother burned down her former family home, and twice hired “hit men” to kill his father, who held legal custody of Scott as a boy.
According to Sen. Ritchie, current law includes a nearly impossible standard of proof for prosecutors to bring more serious charges against parental kidnappers. The bill would change the standard to criminalize a noncustodial parent removing a child with the intent of concealing him or her for a “prolonged period.”
The bill, S.4680, includes an exemption for those who feel that the child’s or their own life is in danger, such as in cases involving domestic violence.
“Children should never become victims in a fight between their parents, and this bill is another effort to make sure that it is the child’s best interests that always come first,” Sen. Ritchie said in her release.
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