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What Is Unlawful Restraint?

Criminal Law Blog by The Law Office of Greg Tsioros

What Is Unlawful Restraint?

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Have you ever had a fight with your significant other in which you refused to let them leave the room? Have you ever blocked the doorway, taken someone’s keys or stood in front of a vehicle to prevent someone from leaving the area?

It may surprise you, but these actions are all considered crimes in the state of Texas. If you’ve ever committed those acts, then you could get charged with unlawful restraint. This type of crime carries significant penalties, so it’s important to start researching your options if you’ve recently been arrested.

Are you wondering what happens after an unlawful arrest in Texas? Learn everything you need to know about unlawful restraint, the penalties associated with it and how to defend yourself against your charges below.

Defining Unlawful Restraint in Texas

You could get charged with unlawful restraint for several different types of actions. This type of crime happens when one person restricts the movements of another person without their consent. In order to be considered unlawful restraint, this restriction must interfere with the person’s liberty and freedom.

A lack of consent is assumed if the accused suspect used any of the following to restrict the victim’s movement:

  • Violence
  • Force
  • The threat of violence or force
  • Deception
  • Intimidation

Often, those accused of unlawful restraint will attempt to argue that the victim consented. Despite that, unlawful restraint charges stand even if the victim acquiesced to the suspect’s alleged intimidation or force.

The suspect accused of unlawful restraint must have also knowingly and intentionally restrained the other person. Accidentally losing someone’s car keys or unknowingly blocking a person’s vehicle wouldn’t rise to the legal threshold of unlawful restraint. Here are a few examples of what would be considered unlawful restraint in Texas:

  • An employer refuses to let an employee leave under threat of force
  • A spouse or significant other forces the other to isolate themselves in their home
  • Another person takes the other’s cell phone and keys, preventing them from leaving
  • A witness is forced to stay at home to prevent them from reporting a crime to the police
  • One person slits another person’s tires to keep them from leaving the area
  • A spouse physically holds down their significant other

Most often, an investigation into unlawful restraint charges begins when the alleged victim contacts authorities. Learn what happens next below.

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What Happens if I’m Charged with Unlawful Restraint?

If a victim calls the police and alleges that unlawful restraint occurred, then authorities will immediately begin investigating what happened. They’ll question the victim, begin collecting evidence and eventually reach out to you.

When the cops approach you about your alleged crime, you likely will not have recourse right away. You’ll probably be informed about the allegations and then placed in handcuffs. You’ll get taken to jail, booked and placed in a cell. Then, you’ll have to wait until your bail is set before you even have a chance to leave. If you can’t come up with bail money, then you’ll likely be stuck in jail until your court hearing over your charges.

What Are the Penalties for Committing Unlawful Restraint Crimes?

The penalties for unlawful restraint crimes in Texas hinge on the degree of your charges. Depending on the situation, you could get charged with a Class A misdemeanor, a state jail felony or a third-degree felony.

Here are the various levels of punishments you could face depending on the level of your charge:

  • Class A Misdemeanor: One-year jail time, up to $4,000 in fines
  • State jail felony: 180 days-two years jail time, up to $10,000 in fines
  • Third-degree felony: 2-10 years of jail time, fines up to $10,000 in fines

Your unlawful restraint charge will become a felony offense if the victim was a minor under the age of 17. It will also be considered a felony when your alleged unlawful restraint puts the victim at serious risk of suffering a bodily injury.

In Texas, getting convicted of a felony offense is the last thing you need in your life. Not only will you serve a much harsher sentence, but your punishments won’t end once you’re released from jail due to the seriousness of your charge.

Convicted felons in Texas are not eligible to vote. You won’t be permitted to carry a firearm any longer. In fact, you’re not even allowed to live in a home that has a legally owned weapon in it.

Defending Yourself Against Unlawful Restraint Charges

Always remember – you’re innocent until prosecutors can prove that you’re guilty. There’s a number of valid defense strategies you can employ after getting hit with unlawful restraint charges. Here are a few of the most commonly used strategies:

  • Mistake of fact (you didn’t commit the crime)
  • Lack of evidence
  • Affirmative defense
  • Unconstitutional arrest

The most obvious defense to employ is to argue that you didn’t commit the alleged violation. Another common strategy is to argue that the state doesn’t have enough evidence to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. You’ll only be able to use these two strategies if there’s a significant lack of evidence, though. Otherwise, a judge or jury is likely to believe the evidence over your defense.

The affirmative defense is another valid defense strategy. According to Texas law, it is legal to restrain someone under the following circumstances:

  • The person being restrained was younger than 14-years-old
  • The alleged suspect is a relative of the child
  • The alleged suspect’s intent was to take lawful control of the youngster
  • The alleged suspect did not use intimidation, force or deception to restrain the child

Finally, your charges will not stand if your Constitutional rights were violated during the investigation or your arrest. For example, the authorities must have informed you about your rights, allowed you to hire an attorney and followed the proper procedures when it comes to searching your property.

 If you can prove your rights were violated at any point during the process, then your charges will likely get dismissed.

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Were You Accused of Unlawful Restraint in Texas?

Depending on the circumstances surrounding your unlawful restraint arrest, you could get charged with a third-degree felony. Convicted felons face specific limitations even after they’ve served their time including a loss of voting privileges and an inability to carry a firearm.

If you’re facing unlawful restraint charges in Texas, then it’s advised you start working on a defense strategy right away. It’s best to seek out legal counsel from an experienced criminal defense attorney. The best lawyer will inform you about your options and help you determine how to reach the best possible legal outcome.

Are you ready to get started on a defense strategy? Contact our firm now to get started on your case.

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