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Unlawful Restraint

For all intents and purposes, unlawful restraint is a lesser offense of kidnapping. Alleged offenders are often charged with unlawful restraint when a prosecutor does not have sufficient evidence to prove the crime of kidnapping.

The major difference between kidnapping and unlawful restraint is that the former involves the intentional or knowing abduction of an alleged victim while the latter is intentionally or knowingly restraining an alleged victim. Even as a lesser offense, unlawful restraint can still result in felony charges in certain instances.

Attorney for Unlawful Restraint Arrests in Houston, TX

Were you arrested for an alleged unlawful restraint offense anywhere in southeast Texas? Do not make any kind of statement to authorities without legal counsel. Contact Horak Law as soon as possible.

Houston criminal defense lawyer Matt Horak defends clients accused of violent crimes in Pearland, Houston, Missouri City, Spring, League City, Galveston, Sugar Land, Pasadena, The Woodlands, Conroe, Richmond-Rosenberg, and many surrounding areas of Harris County. Call our firm at (713) 225-8000 or toll-free at (800) 225-8009 to have our attorney review your case and discuss all of your legal options during a confidential consultation.


Overview of Unlawful Restraint Crimes in Harris County


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Unlawful Restraint Charges in Texas

Texas Penal Code § 20.01(1) defines the term restrain as meaning "to restrict a person's movements without consent, so as to interfere substantially with the person's liberty, by moving the person from one place to another or by confining the person." Additionally, the statute establishes that 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 a child who is less than 14 years of age or an incompetent person and the parent, guardian, or person or institution acting in loco parentis has not acquiesced in the movement or confinement; or the victim is a child who is 14 years of age or older and younger than 17 years of age, the victim is taken outside of the state and outside a 120-mile radius from the victim's residence, and the parent, guardian, or person or institution acting in loco parentis has not acquiesced in the movement.

The term abduct, however, is defined under Texas Penal Code § 20.01(2) as meaning to restrain a person with intent to prevent his liberation by secreting or holding him in a place where he is not likely to be found; or using or threatening to use deadly force. Under Texas Penal Code § 20.02, an alleged offender commits the crime of unlawful restraint if he or she intentionally or knowingly restrains another person.


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Unlawful Restraint Penalties in Harris County

Unlawful restraint is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $4,000, but the crime can be classified as a state jail felony punishable by up to two years in state jail and/or a fine of up to $10,000 if the alleged victim was a child younger than 17 years of age. An alleged offender can be charged with a third-degree felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000 if:

  • the alleged offender recklessly exposed the alleged victim to a substantial risk of serious bodily injury;
  • the alleged offender restrained an individual the alleged offender knew was a public servant while the public servant was lawfully discharging an official duty or in retaliation or on account of an exercise of official power or performance of an official duty as a public servant; or
  • the alleged offender while in custody restrained any other person.

Under Texas Penal Code § 20.02(b), it is an affirmative defense to prosecution for unlawful restraint that:

  • the person restrained was a child younger than 14 years of age;
  • the alleged offender was a relative of the child; and
  • the alleged offender's sole intent was to assume lawful control of the child.

Additionally, Texas Penal Code § 20.02(e) establishes that it is also an affirmative defense to prosecution for the same offense that:

  • the person restrained was a child who is 14 years of age or older and younger than 17 years of age;
  • the alleged offender did not restrain the child by force, intimidation, or deception; and
  • the alleged offender was not more than three years older than the child.

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Texas Unlawful Restraint Resources

Chapter 20 | Texas Penal Code — View the full text of the state laws governing kidnapping, unlawful restraint, and smuggling of persons offenses. Read about the differences in the statutory language for these crimes. You can also find definitions relating to these statutes.

Mendoza v. State, 07-06-0200-CR (Tex.App.-Amarillo [7th Dist.] 10-18-2007) — John Aaron Mendoza was charged with aggravated kidnapping, but the court's charge included the lesser offenses of kidnapping and unlawful restraint. The jury found Mendoza not guilty of the higher offenses, but guilty of unlawful restraint. Mendoza contended in his appeal that the evidence was legally and factually insufficient to support his conviction, but the Court of Appeals concluded that the evidence showing Mendoza lured the victim (his girlfriend) into his car by false representations and drove to another county without her consent was sufficient to establish restriction of the victim’s liberty and prove unlawful restraint.


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Horak Law | Houston Unlawful Restraint Defense Lawyer

If you were arrested anywhere in Harris County for an alleged unlawful restraint offense, it will be in your best interest to quickly seek legal representation. Horak Law represents individuals in communities all over Harris County, Liberty County, Brazoria County, Galveston County, Montgomery County, Waller County, and Fort Bend County.

Matt Horak is a skilled criminal defense attorney in Houston who will make every effort to possibly get your criminal charges reduced or dismissed. He can provide a complete evaluation of your case as soon as you call our firm at (713) 225-8000 or toll-free at (800) 225-8009 or fill out an online contact form to receive a initial consultation.


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Our Office in The Woodlands
1790 Hughes Landing Blvd #400 The Woodlands, TX 77380 (281) 907-4990
Our Office in Houston
5300 Memorial Dr #750 A Houston, TX 77007 (713) 225-8000
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Matt Horak Matt Horak is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization since 2014

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