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Abduction means the taking of a person against their will, generally by means of persuasion, fraud, or force. Some jurisdictions also require that the abductee (the person who is abducted) be a child or that that the abductor intend to marry or harm the abductee or subject them to prostitution or trafficking. Generally, states will differentiate abduction from child abduction depending on age. For instance, in California jury instructions, the essential factual elements disseminated to jurors for abduction require the plaintiff to be 65 years of age or older/a dependent adult.  

Parental abduction, a parent's abduction of their child which generally occurs during the pendency of child-custody proceedings, is also a crime. Although the terms abduction and kidnapping are, at times, used interchangeably, kidnapping is narrower, generally requiring the threat or use of force. 

A helpful definition of abduction is also provided in the Code of Virginia § 18.2-47 which states that “Any person who, by force, intimidation or deception, and without legal justification or excuse, seizes, takes, transports, detains or secretes another person with the intent to deprive such other person of [their] personal liberty or to withhold or conceal [them] from any person, authority or institution lawfully entitled to [their] charge, shall be deemed guilty of ‘abduction.’”

[Last updated in June of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team]