Facing kidnapping charges in Texas? The experienced criminal defense attorneys at Cofer & Connelly, PLLC can help. We will carefully advise you of your options and will work tirelessly to defend you and protect your rights.
Due to the impact that a felony can have on someone's life, you may be wondering:
- What is kidnapping?
- Can a parent be convicted for kidnapping if it is their child?
- What are the penalties for kidnapping?
- What are potential defenses to a kidnapping charge?
What Is Kidnapping in Texas?
In Texas, kidnapping occurs when a person intentionally and knowingly takes another person without permission. There are three classifications for kidnapping – first-degree, second-degree, and third-degree kidnapping. Several types of kidnapping may occur in Texas that may result in charges ranging from a misdemeanor up to a first-degree felony, including:
- General Kidnapping
- Aggravated Kidnapping
- Unlawful Transport
- Unlawful Restraint
Under Texas law, kidnapping occurs whenever a person intentionally or knowingly takes another person against their will or, in the case of a child, without the parent or guardian’s consent.
Kidnapping generally results in a third-degree felony charge. If convicted of general kidnapping, the perpetrator may face imprisonment for 2 to 20 years and a fine of up to $10,000.
Under Texas law, aggravated kidnapping is the most severe kidnapping charge. It occurs when someone intentionally or knowingly takes another person against their will and uses them for ransom, leverage, hostage, or as a human shield. This charge also results from the kidnapping victim being terrorized, suffering bodily harm, or suffering sexual abuse. Additionally, kidnapping can rise to aggravated assault if a deadly weapon was used during the crime or if the offender interfered with a government or political function.
Generally, aggravated kidnapping will result in a first-degree felony. Aggravated kidnapping carries harsher penalties, leading to life in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
Under Texas law, unlawful transport occurs when someone kidnaps another person, so they are hidden from law enforcement, and there is a significant risk of suffering serious bodily injury. Generally, unlawful transport is a third-degree felony unless the following occurs:
- The offender acts in a way that creates a substantial likelihood that the kidnapped person will suffer serious bodily injury. If this occurs, it will be considered a second-degree felony.
- If the kidnapped individual is under eighteen (18), the offense will be considered a second-degree felony.
- The kidnapped individual becomes the victim of sexual assault or aggravated sexual assault resulting in a first-degree felony.
- The kidnapped individual suffered a serious bodily injury, resulting in a first-degree felony charge.
Under Texas law, an unlawful restraint occurs when someone intentionally and knowingly restrains another person against their will but does not transport them from the location. Unlawful restraint is usually charged as a Class A misdemeanor in Texas resulting in up to 12 months in jail and a fine of up to $4,000.
What is the Definition of a Deadly Weapon under Texas Law?
According to Texas law, a deadly weapon is considered the following:
- A firearm or anything made, adapted, or even designed for the purpose of inflicting death or serious injury to another person; or
- Anything capable of causing death or serious injury to another person while being used in the way it was intended.
Essentially, a deadly weapon is anything that could cause death or serious injury to another person. So, for example, if someone knows how to fight, their fists could be considered a deadly weapon since they could kill someone with their fists due to their ability to fight.
Parental Kidnapping in Austin, TX
In certain circumstances, under Texas law, a parent can be charged with kidnapping their own child. Generally, in these cases, a divorce or custody proceeding is pending or finalized, and a parent takes the child in violation of court orders. To be convicted of parental kidnapping, the prosecution is required to show that the individual taken was under the age of eighteen (18) years of age and the offender committed one of the following:
- The defendant knows that the kidnapping violates the express terms of a judgment or order of a court disposing of the child’s custody;
- The defendant has not been awarded custody, knows that a divorce or custody case has been filed, and takes the child out of the geographic area of the counties composing the judicial district;
- The defendant takes the child outside of the United States with the intent to deprive another person who is entitled access to the child and without the knowledge of that other person; or
- A noncustodial parent intentionally interferes with the lawful custody of a child or knowingly persuades the child to leave the custody of the custodial parent or guardian.
What Are the Stages of Kidnapping?
Kidnapping is an incredibly serious offense, and when someone is suspected of kidnapping it's important to understand the different phases that occur. Typically kidnapping involves three stages - acquisition, transportation, and control. The acquisition phase is where the perpetrator first makes contact with their victim and plans the kidnapping, while during transportation they move the victim to the desired location. Finally, the control stage occurs after the kidnapping takes place, where perpetrators will keep tight control of their victims until a ransom or another desired outcome is achieved.
Sex Offender Registry in Texas
Under Texas law, if a case involves a sexual assault, the offender may be required to register as a sex offender. There are three risk levels for offenders on the registry, which depend on whether the individual is likely to commit another sex crime in the future. An individual on the sex registry must provide the following:
- A physical description such as the offenders' height, weight, race, and gender;
- The offender's date of birth;
- The offender's address;
- Details of the offender's convictions and reason for required registration; and
- Photos of the offender.
Being required to register as a sex offender can haunt an individual's life because certain individuals and entities will be notified of their presence depending on the risk level. The registry is public information that anyone can find. For example, if someone is a high-risk offender, the police department and schools will be warned of the offenders present to ensure they know to look out for signs of such conduct.
What are the Penalties for Kidnapping in Texas?
Under Texas law, penalties for kidnapping can range from a misdemeanor to a first-degree felony. In Texas, a misdemeanor can be one of three categories.
Felony Penalties in TX
A felony charge can range from third-degree at the lowest range to first-degree, which is the most severe felony charge.
- Third-Degree Felony: Two to ten years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
- Second-Degree Felony: Two to twenty years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
- First-Degree Felony: Life in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
Misdemeanor Penalties in TX
There are three classifications for misdemeanors, starting at Class C, the least severe misdemeanor, and ending at Class A, the most severe misdemeanor.
- Class C Misdemeanor: This does not generally result in jail time but instead a fine of up to $500.
- Class B Misdemeanor: Up to 180 days in county jail and a fine of up to $2,000.
- Class A Misdemeanor: Up to 12 months in jail and a fine of up to $4,000.
Is Kidnapping a Federal Crime Texas?
Kidnapping is a serious offense and is considered a federal crime in Texas. In Texas, kidnapping can be charged as a first-degree felony, resulting in bleak penalties such as life imprisonment or even the death penalty. The most common kidnapping in Texas involves kidnapping of children. Those who kidnap a child face a minimum of twenty years behind bars if the victim was released alive. If the kidnapping involved extortion or ransom money, then it can be punished by life imprisonment. For kidnapping offenders, few consequences are more severe than those imposed by Texas law.
Defenses to Kidnapping in Texas
There are several defenses that a knowledgeable defense team will implement to protect their client's rights effectively. The first and easiest defense is that the prosecution did not prove every element of kidnapping. For example, it is required that the defendant intentionally or knowingly abducted another person. Therefore, if the alleged victim got into someone’s car and hid in the back of their SUV where the defendant could not see them and the defendant went to another state, then that is not kidnapping because they did not knowingly or intentionally take the alleged victim with them.
More defenses include but are not limited to the following:
- Consent of the Victim: The individual must be taken against their will or, if a minor, without the parent or guardian's permission. For example, if a child consents to someone taking them from the playground but the parents did not consent, it can still be considered kidnapping. Consent of the victim or victim’s guardian means no kidnapping occurred.
- Duress: The defense of duress is available to a defendant when they are coerced to kidnap another person because a third party threatened the defendant with physical force or violence on their immediate family if the defendant did not kidnap the victim.
- Mistake: In some situations, a defendant charged with kidnapping may be successful in showing that they believed they were acting legally when they took the individual. However, this is generally not the most successful defense because a lack of knowledge of the law is usually not a strong way to sway the jury.
- Double Jeopardy: In some situations, a defendant cannot be charged with a crime that elevates a kidnapping charge and the elevated kidnapping charge because of double jeopardy. However, if the charges are distinct, the defendant can be charged with kidnapping and another, even if they occurred together. For example, someone can be charged with kidnapping and murder, even if all the crimes occurred against the same individual.
Our Austin Kidnapping Defense Attorneys Are Here To Defend You
The Austin kidnapping defense lawyers at Cofer & Connelly, PLLC have a track record of success defending individuals charged with kidnapping and kidnapping-related charges. These are serious charges that require skilled, experienced attorneys in Austin, TX. Our success is due to our ability to defend our clients strategically, aggressively, and innovatively.
Make the right call by reaching out to us today - your future may depend on it. To schedule a free consultation with one of our Austin kidnapping defense attorneys, contact us by calling (512) 991-0576 or by filling out a form online.
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