AMBER alerts against fathers

Posted Wednesday, September 30th, 2009 by Gregory Forman
Filed under Law and Culture, Of Interest to General Public, South Carolina Specific

Yesterday, South Carolina issued an AMBER alert for two-year-old Geomari Young after his father, Geonaldo R. Young, alleged beat Geomari’s mother (Geonaldo’s ex-girlfriend) and “kidnapped” him. Under South Carolina law, one cannot kidnap one’s own child, as the kidnapping statute, S.C Code Ann. § 16-3-910, does not apply “when a minor is seized or taken by his parent.”

AMBER – America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response – was created in 1996 as a legacy to 9-year-old Amber Hagerman, who was kidnapped while riding her bicycle in Arlington, Texas and then brutally murdered. After this heinous crime, Dallas-Fort Worth broadcasters teamed with local police to develop an early warning system to help find abducted children. One of the criteria for AMBER alerts is “[t]he law enforcement agency believes that the child is in imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death.

I haven’t kept track but anecdotally it seems like a lot of AMBER alerts are issued when a family member takes the child.  It is my recollection that, after the facts fully come to light, there is sometimes good reason for the family member to be taking the child from the mother.  Even when there isn’t, it may be bad policy to issue AMBER alerts for family member abductions.

AMBER alerts serve a useful purpose: putting the general public on notice that a child has been abducted and seeking public assistance in locating and obtaining the safe return of the child.  However, the circumstances that AMBER alerts are supposed to remedy–a child abducted by a stranger with nefarious intent–rarely apply when it is a family member doing the abducting.  While Mr. Young’s domestic violence towards Geomari’s mother may be a situation in which Geomari might have been “in imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death,” I have my doubts.

There’s a reason South Carolina law doesn’t treat parent abduction as “kidnapping.”  If law enforcement is considering yesterday’s capture to be a successful use of AMBER alerts, I would question both the statistics regarding AMBER alerts efficacy and the use of AMBER alerts in general.  Asking the public to become involved in parents’ domestic disputes seems to be questionable policy: using AMBER alerts for domestic disputes will likely reduce the vigilance that law enforcement hopes the general public pays to these alerts.

5 thoughts on AMBER alerts against fathers

  1. It could certainly overwhelm the public’s limited attention. Some Police Departments have programs which are very hostile to fathers. A loss of credibility might well reduce the effectiveness of the alerts.

  2. Concerned Man says:

    The Feminist Movement in our country has conditioned everyone to believe that all women are victims of abusive men that any means justify the end whether it is legal or not. The sad thing is that most men prescribe to this treatment of other men until they experience it first hand for themselves – at which point there is no one there to protect them either including the legal system.

    Does a woman alleging abuse with a plastic baseball bat who calls her mother and not the police automatically trump a man’s constitutional rights? It does in this country and believe it or not, there is a line of men waiting to take the abuser down and get pinned a hero. But we will never hear anything else on the story if something were to be uncovered that the mother was on drugs and beating the child. Not good news!

  3. Anthony LaMantia says:

    When I saw this on the news the other morning, I was also shocked at the concept that a parent could “kidnap” his or her own child. While I understand the knee jerk reaction and would be devastated if my spouse took my child from me, I hate when the police and the news trump up charges solely for the benefit of making news and shining their badges while only reporting half of the story and filing unsustainable charges.

  4. Steph McDonald says:

    What is the reason that SC law doesn’t treat parent abduction as a kidnapping? If I missed that, my apologies. Would be interested in learning more. Thanks!

    1. South Carolina doesn’t treat parent abduction as kidnapping because of an underlying philosophy supporting parental rights that is codified in S.C. Code Ann. § 63-5-30:

      The mother and father are the joint natural guardians of their minor children and are equally charged with the welfare and education of their minor children and the care and management of the estates of their minor children; and the mother and father have equal power, rights, and duties, and neither parent has any right paramount to the right of the other concerning the custody of the minor or the control of the services or the earnings of the minor or any other matter affecting the minor. Each parent, whether the custodial or noncustodial parent of the child, has equal access and the same right to obtain all educational records and medical records of their minor children and the right to participate in their children’s school activities unless prohibited by order of the court. Neither parent shall forcibly take a child from the guardianship of the parent legally entitled to custody of the child.

      However, I could see from that last sentence support for the concept that one could “kidnap” one’s own child.

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