California has a variety of laws that pertain to kidnapping, two of which relate to kidnapping for ransom. The first is prohibited by Penal Code 209 PC and deals with actually kidnapping a victim for ransom. The second is prohibited by Penal Code 210 PC California’s law against extortion by posing as a kidnapper.
If you actually kidnap a person in order to try to collect ransom or commit extortion, you violate California’s aggravated kidnapping law. This offense is punishable by life in prison with or without the possibility of parole, depending on whether the victim suffers death or bodily harm or is exposed to a substantial likelihood that he/she will suffer one of these fates.
If you pose as a kidnapper in order to try to collect ransom or commit extortion, you also commit a crime regardless of whether you (1) actually kidnap anyone, or (2) actually collect ransom or receive the benefit of the attempted extortion. This offense is punishable by up to four years in the California state prison, which is the same as a “regular” extortion charge.
The latter charge does not apply to a person who (1) believes that someone has been kidnapped, and (2) reasonably believes that he/she can rescue the victim. And this is the case even if the person collects a fee for those services, so long as he/she played no part in the fictitious kidnapping.