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Felony charges filed in AMBER alert for missing 4-year-old girl

When an AMBER alert is issued, the police in multi-state jurisdictions engage in a thoroughly cooperative effort to locate a missing child and apprehend the suspects. An example of that occurred on Sept. 5 when New York State Police apprehended a 47-year-old grandmother and her 61-year-old boyfriend on the New York Thruway in Onondaga County and filed felony charges against them. The AMBER alert was originated in Vermont where the couple allegedly absconded with the woman's 4-year-old granddaughter over whom she had no custodial rights.

The couple reside in Vermont and were reportedly heading to Illinois with the child. New York authorities arrested them on charges of being fugitives from justice, custodial interference and second-degree unlawful restraint. The reasons for their actions are unknown at this point. Both she and her boyfriend had prior mental and drug abuse problems, according to police.

The alert was issued at roughly 1:30 a.m and two New York troopers found the suspects in their vehicle at about 2:05 a.m. The girl was unharmed and was turned over to officials for return to her home in Vermont. Defense counsel in a situation like this starts from an uncomfortable position in that public opinion will be overwhelmingly focused on the safety of the girl and the apparent wrongdoing of the couple.

However, there could be mitigating information: the reasons for disputes over the custody of immediate family children can occasionally justify or at least explain the decision to take a child from her legal guardian. In this case, counsel will try to find the mitigating circumstances to plead for leniency in consideration and sentencing of these felony charges. Additionally, if their actions are a result of mental problems, then that aspect of the case must be focused on to obtain the best and most appropriate kind of sentence for the defendants. It appears that the New York charges will be prosecuted here, but the couple may face extradition to answer to additional charges in the originating state. 

Source: syracuse.com, "Pair accused of abducting girl from Vermont arrested on NYS Thruway in DeWitt", Ken Sturtz, Sept. 5, 2015

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