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Kidnapping Laws in Texas

Criminal Law Blog by The Law Office of Greg Tsioros

Kidnapping Laws in Texas

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How Texas Prosecutes Kidnapping

Abducting another person against their will is referred to as kidnapping in the state of Texas. If you take someone from one location to another without their consent, you may end up facing arrest and prosecution on kidnapping charges.

These kinds of charges can be filed in a wide range of scenarios. If these charges lead to a conviction, the defendant could be looking at a long stay in prison and a variety of other penalties.

Knowing more about the way that Texas prosecutes kidnapping cases is the best way to be legally prepared for this kind of case.

Defining the Crime

In Texas, the definition of kidnapping is fairly straightforward. Under Section 20.03 of the Texas Penal Code, the crime is defined as:

  • Intentionally or knowingly abducting another person

The use of weapons or violence is not necessary for the crime of kidnapping to occur. The only requirement is the intentional or knowing abduction of another person. The Texas Penal Code defines abduction as:

  • Restraining a person with the intent to prevent their liberation by holding them in a place where they are unlikely to be found and/or using or threatening to use deadly force

For example, Maria believes that her cousin been stealing money from her. She picks up her cousin with a promise to take him out to lunch. Instead, Maria drives her cousin to an abandoned road on the outskirts of town and threatens to hurt him unless he tells her the truth about the missing money. She locks him in the car and refuses to let him out.

Maria may be arrested and charged with kidnapping because she took someone to a place against their will under false pretenses. She threatened to use deadly force and restrained their freedom by locking them in the car.

Levels of Severity

Section 20.03 of the Texas Penal Code covers the basic crime of kidnapping. However, there are enhanced forms of this offense that can be punished with more severe penalties.

Section 20.04 covers the crime of aggravated kidnapping. This form of the crime includes the abduction of another person but uses the intent of the kidnapper to determine if they should face enhanced charges. A person can be charged with aggravated kidnapping if they abduct another person with the intent to:

  • Hold the person for ransom
  • Use the person as a hostage or human shield
  • Use the person to help commit a felony or flee the scene of a felony crime
  • Injure the person or sexually abuse them
  • Terrorize the person or another person
  • Interfere with a governmental or political function

In the example of Maria and her cousin, suppose that Maria kept her cousin prisoner in her apartment. She then called her cousin’s parents and demanded that they pay her the money he stole in order to have him returned to them. Maria has committed aggravated kidnapping because she abducted another person for the purpose of asking for a ransom.

Kidnapping charges can also be upgraded to aggravated status if the kidnapper uses or displays a deadly weapon during the commission of the crime.

Legal Penalties

In Texas, kidnapping is considered a third degree felony. This is a crime punishable by:

  • Up to 10 years in state prison
  • A fine of up to $10,000

Aggravated kidnapping is a felony of the first degree. This can lead to a punishment of:

  • Five to 99 years or life in state prison
  • A fine of up to $10,000

In the case of aggravated kidnapping, if the kidnapper voluntarily releases their victim in a safe location, they may have their charge lowered to a second degree felony. This charge is punishable by up to 20 years in state prison.

Legal Defenses

In some cases, a person who abducts another person may have legal recourse that prevents prosecution. Section 20.03 of the Texas Penal Code lists the following reasons as valid defenses to prosecution:

  • The abduction was not done with the intent to use or threaten deadly force
  • The actor was a relative of the person being abducted
  • The actor’s sole intent was to take lawful custody of the victim

For example, Martin’s sister has a son who lives at home with her. Although her son is legally an adult, he is unemployed and abusive to Martin’s sister. Martin’s sister asks him to pick up her son and take him away to live with Martin for a few months. Martin does so and the young man calls the police to report a kidnapping.

Martin may be arrested and investigated but he can claim a defense to prosecution because he had no intent to use violence, he is related to the person being abducted and he was only trying to take custody of the young man to help his sister.

Related Crimes

In some cases, other charges may be filed along with kidnapping charges. Section 20.02 of the Texas Penal Code refers to the crime of Unlawful Restraint. The Penal Code states that to restrain someone is to:

  • Restrict their movements without consent in order to interfere with their liberty, confining the person or moving them to another location

This is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in county jail unless the person being restrained is a child under 17 years of age. In that case, the charge is upgraded to a state jail felony, punishable by up to two years in state jail.

Have you or someone you know been charged with kidnapping of any form? If so, you should contact a criminal defense lawyer immediately. The sooner you contact attorney Greg Tsioros, the more he will be able to help the situation. Contact his office today at 832-752-5972.

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