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Ransom is money or other consideration paid to or demanded by someone in exchange for the release of a kidnapped person or stolen property. It may also refer to the verb of demanding or paying the money to release the kidnapped person. 

In California, the act of kidnapping and demanding ransom is a crime referred to as “aggravated kidnapping,” and People v. Ibrahim lays out four fact situations which show this crime: “(1) the primary victim is abducted and held while ransom is demanded from a secondary victim; (2) the kidnap victim is not moved but the secondary victim is; (3) neither victim is moved; and (4) the kidnap victim is held to induce police officers to refrain from resisting and stopping the defendant's criminal acts.”

In New York’s Penal Law §135.25, ransom serves as an aggravating factor that may result in charges of kidnapping in the first degree. The law states that “a person is guilty of kidnapping in the first degree when he abducts another person and when: 1. His intent is to compel a third person to pay or deliver money or property as ransom…”

[Last updated in August of 2023 by the Wex Definitions Team]