I’m not referring to children here—we all know we can’t abandon children, even when they’re not our own. In addition, I’m looking more for an answer pertaining to U.S. law, although I’d be interested in hearing how other legal systems handle it.
So my question is: Can you legally strand someone in an unpopulated area (say, a desert) or a dangerous area (a bad neighborhood)?
Let’s assume that they don’t have their cell phone with them.
Probably only if something bad happened, and I imagine intent would come into play here. Intended to strand your friend someplace where you think they might die is a different thing that thinking you are sending your friend on a fun adventure.
As a complete layman, I’d imagine that the circumstances of you arriving at that place would make a difference. If your friend saw you driving toward a dangerous area and said, “I don’t want to go there” and you went there anyway and then told her to get out of the car, were you kidnapping her at that point?
Like anything else with law, the devil is always in the details, but if she got in the car willingly to begin with then I would have a hard time seeing it meet all the elements of kidnapping. First and foremost being mens rea (unless kidnapping only requires an actus reus, where simply the act is sufficient and intent is irrelevant).
And I don’t see how it would turn into kidnapping at the point where you told this friend to get out of the car… the kidnap would have occurred much earlier on in the timeline of events, perhaps when she voiced her request to be allowed to exit the car and you did not comply. But maybe that would fall under false imprisonment, who knows?
Again, IANAL, IANYL, this is all speculation and hearsay and shooting from the hip, and so forth.
Two years ago I was driving late at night on a back road that sees maybe a dozen cars a week. I saw a car had run off the edge of the (dirt) road, sinking down into mud. The driver (only person there) was standing in the middle of the road waving his arms over his head.
I stopped and the guy approached my window. I immediately recognized the guy as the person who had defrauded my business out of some money about a year previously. The second I saw who it was, I put my vehicle in gear and drove off.
About a week later, he approached me at my place of business, saying that he would be seeing me in court. I called my attorney and asked if I should worry. He researched the situation a bit, then called me a few hours later. In PA, I was in the clear.
Unfortunately, it didn’t die out then. In the '90s and early '00s, there were alleged cases of police officers in Saskatoon (Saskatchewan, Canada) driving Aboriginals to the outskirts town and abandoning them. In the night, during the winter, and with Saskatoon’s climate, this could easily be fatal.
As far as I’ve been able to tell, there was only one case (that of Darrell Night) in which police officers were actually convicted of such a crime, and in that case they were convicted of “unlawful confinement” rather than reckless endangerment. However, in this situation you could argue that the officers used coercion to get Night to come with them, and so it’s not quite the same as the situation described by the OP.
Though I have to wonder what would have happened if he had been unable to make it back to civilization and expired due to thirst, freezing, whatever. Then when later his body was discovered they found an entry in his journal, “kayaker stopped on [date] but then drove away when he saw who I was.”