Kidnapping is a serious felony offense and occurs when a person intentionally or knowingly abducts another person—usually a child. Kidnapping of children most commonly occurs when a couple is separating or divorcing. The people involved are often parents, relatives, or guardians of the victim and the circumstances are both legally complicated and emotionally charged.
In Texas criminal law, two terms are very important; Abduct and Restrain. The difference in meaning between these terms as applied to the facts of your case could affect the seriousness of the charges against you, how your case is handled and whether or not your case has the potential to be dismissed.
According to section 20.01(1) of the Texas Penal Code, “Restrain” means to restrict a person’s movements without consent by moving the person from one place to another or by confining the person. Restraint is “without consent” if it is accomplished by:
Force, intimidation, or deception, or Any means, including acquiescence of the victim, if:
The victim is under 14 years of age and the parent or guardian have not acquiesced;
or the victim is between 14 to 17 years of age
and is taken outside of the state and outside of a 120-mile radius from the victim’s residence.
The parent or guardian have not acquiesced in the movement.
According to section 20.01(2) of the Texas Penal Code, “Abduct” means to restrain a person without consent with intent to prevent his rescue by holding the individual in a place where he is not likely to be found or by threatening violence.
The purpose of defining restraint and abduction in the code is to provide guidance on how the three different kidnapping related offenses should be charged. These three related offenses are unlawful restraint, kidnapping and aggravated kidnapping.
According to section 20.04 of the Texas Penal Code, a person can be charged with unlawful restraint if he restrains another person. It is an affirmative defense to prosecution under this section that the person restrained was younger than 14 years of age; the actor was a relative of the child; and the actor’s sole intent was to assume lawful control of the child.
Unlawful Restraint is a Class A Misdemeanor, except the offense is a:
State Jail Felony if the person restrained is under 17 years of age; or
Third Degree Felony if the actor recklessly endangers the victim; or the actor restrains a public servant.
According to section 20.03 of the Texas Penal Code, a person can be charged with kidnapping if he abducts another person. It is an affirmative defense to prosecution under this section that the abduction did not involve threats of violence; the actor was a relative of the person abducted; and the actor’s sole intent was to assume lawful control of the victim.
Kidnapping is a Third Degree Felony.
According to section 20.04 of the Texas Penal Code, a person can be charged with kidnapping if he abducts another person with the intent to:
hold him/her for ransom;
use him/her as a shield or hostage;
facilitate the commission of a felony or the flight after the attempt or commission of a felony;
inflict bodily injury on him/her or violate or abuse him/her sexually;
terrorize him/her or a third person;
interfere with the performance of any governmental or political function.
A person commits an offense if the person abducts another person and uses or exhibits a deadly weapon during the commission of the offense.
Kidnapping is a First Degree Felony, except a Second Degree Felony is possible if the defendant voluntarily releases the victim in a safe place.
Chapter 12 of the Texas Penal Code lists the punishment for kidnapping related offenses in Texas as:
A Class A Misdemeanor is punishable by up to a $4,000 fine; confinement in jail for up to 1 year; or both.
A State Jail Felony is punishable by between 180 days to 2 years in a state jail; and by up to a $10,000 fine.
A Third Degree Felony is punishable by between 2 to 10 years in prison; and up to a $10,000 fine.
A Second Degree Felony is punishable by between 2 to 20 years in prison; and up to a $10,000 fine.
A First Degree Felony is punishable by between 5 to 99 years or life in prison; and up to a $10,000 fine.
Depending on the facts of the case, there may be mitigating circumstances that reduce the severity of the charges. These circumstances include the age difference between the victim and the defendant, the relationship between the victim and the defendant, whether violence was used against the victim and other ulterior motives of the defendant.
It is important to contact an experienced Harris County defense attorney to learn if any of these mitigating circumstances might apply in order to get your case reduced or dismissed. Contact Attorney Emily Shelton. She has the experience, knowledge of the law, and power to defend your rights.