Being accused of kidnapping another person is a serious situation that requires delicate handling. Tragically, many kidnapping cases involve parents who have been accused of kidnapping their own children in some way. Often, there are perfectly valid reasons for the actions that you took, and a Houston criminal defense attorney can help you effectively present your case to the court.
Houston Kidnapping Defense Attorney
Attorney Matt Horak is experienced in handling cases that involve criminal matters throughout Houston. Having spent several years as an Assistant District Attorney for Harris County, he is also well-versed in both sides of a criminal trial and knowledgeable as to the strategies that work well in defending cases such as kidnapping.
Kidnapping Terms: “Restrain” vs. “Abduct”
Given the wide variety of circumstances that can be involved in a kidnapping case, there are a few terms that clarify what is going on. Outlined in §20.01 of the Texas Penal Code, these terms are as follows:
- Restraint– To restrain another person is to restrict their movement without consent, either by moving them from one place to another or by confining them within a certain space. “Without consent” can mean the traditional definition by using force, intimidation, or deception, but it’s not always that simple. A lack of consent can be present even if the victim approved of the action provided that:
- the victim is under 14 years of age and his or her parent or guardian hasn’t approved of the action, or
- the victim is between 14 and 17 and is taken out of state and beyond a 120-mile radius from his or her residence
- Abduction – Abducting someone consists of taking them and attempting to prevent their rescue, either by keeping somewhere they are unlikely to be found or by threatening the use of violence should rescue be attempted.
The distinction between these terms is essential to understanding the differences between the types of kidnapping charges in Texas.
Unlawful restraint consists of intentionally restraining another person according to the above definition of restraint. As provided in §20.02 of the Texas Penal Code, there are a few factors that may mitigate or exacerbate the offense in the case of unlawful restraint. Primarily, an unlawful restraint charge is a Class A misdemeanor, but the following situations may change that:
- If the restrained person is under 14, related to the defendant, and the defendant only intended to exert lawful control over the person, the charge is reduced.
- The restrained person is 14–17 years of age, no force, intimidate, or deception is used, and the defendant is no more than three years older than the person, the charge is reduced.
- The charge becomes a state jail felony if the restrained person is under 17.
- A third-degree felony may be charged if the defendant recklessly endangered the restrained person or if the restrained person was an on-duty public servant.
This degree of restraint is typically not as severe as other kidnapping charges, but can still be quite burdensome and stressful to those charged with it. Contact an attorney if you believe your circumstances don’t warrant the charge.
The charge known as kidnapping simply requires an abduction of another person as provided in the above definition of abduction. This charge is described in §20.03 of The Texas Penal Code, where it gives a simple definition, a mitigating circumstance, and the degree of seriousness of the crime.
A kidnapping charge is considered a third-degree felony in almost every case, provided that the charge hasn’t been enhanced to aggravated kidnapping. However, there is an exception to this that can be used in your defense: if you are related to the person you allegedly abducted, didn’t use or threaten to use violence, and no other ulterior motives were present, you can bring forward the facts of your circumstances to reduce or drop the kidnapping charge you have received.
Occasionally referred to as “kidnapping plus”, aggravated kidnapping involves abducting someone with some other purpose in mind that is deemed significantly more dangerous or harmful to the restrained person or other people. This charge is most often a first-degree felony, so it is not something to take lightly.
As outlined in §20.04 of the Texas Penal Code, aggravated kidnapping requires one of the following factors in addition to the abduction:
- The victim has been held for ransom.
- The defendant holds the victim as a hostage or uses him as a human shield.
- An attempt to leverage the victim into committing or escaping from a felony is made.
- Bodily harm or sexual abuse is inflicted upon the victim.
- The defendant terrorizes the victim or another person.
- The defendant intends to interfere with government or political function
- A deadly weapon is used during the kidnapping.
However, if it can be shown that the victim was voluntarily released to a safe place, the charge can be reduced to a second-degree felony.
The final type of kidnapping-related charge is known as unlawful transport. This charge consists of abducting and transporting an individual such that they are hidden from law enforcement agencies and there is a significant risk of them suffering serious bodily injury or death. A charge of this type is considered a state jail felony, as outlined in §20.05 of the Texas Penal Code.
Horak Law | Houston Kidnapping Defense Lawyer
If you’ve been charged with kidnapping in the greater Houston area and feel that your circumstances don’t deserve the criminal charge attached to them, it’s important that you take action immediately to ensure that you aren’t convicted of a serious crime. Seek the help of experienced Houston criminal defense attorney Matt Horak.
Contact Horak Law today at (713) 225-8000 or using the online case evaluation form to schedule an evaluation of your case.