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Description automatically generatedIn Texas, facing an accusation of unlawful restraint is a serious issue. If convicted, the consequences include hefty fines and potential prison time, which could have long-term effects on your life. It's important for anyone accused to fully appreciate what's at risk. 

Call Cofer & Connelly, PLLC at (512) 991-0576 or visit us online to learn more about your legal options and next steps.

What is Unlawful Restraint?

According to Texas Penal Code Section 20.02, unlawful restraint occurs when you intentionally or knowingly prevent someone else from moving freely. To commit this offense, you must restrain another person without their permission. This could include physically holding them back, locking them in a room, or using threats to keep them from leaving. It's important to note that the restraint does not need to involve physical force; intimidation or deception to keep someone from moving can also be considered unlawful restraint.

If you're accused of this crime, the prosecutor must prove a few things to secure a conviction. First, they need to show that you acted intentionally or knowingly. This means you were aware of what you were doing and chose to restrict the other person's freedom of movement. Additionally, the restraint must be against the person's will. If the other person consented to the actions or was otherwise compliant, it's typically not considered unlawful restraint.

There are some exceptions to this rule, particularly involving children. If the person you restrained was a child under 14, and you are a relative acting with the intent to lawfully control the child, it's not considered an offense under this law. Similarly, detaining someone during a lawful arrest is also exempt from being classified as unlawful restraint.

Understanding these elements is crucial if you face charges under this statute, as they form the basis of 

What Are the Penalties for Unlawful Restraint?

The penalties for unlawful restraint depend on the specifics of the offense, such as the age of the person restrained and the circumstances under which the restraint occurred. Here’s what you need to know:

Typically, unlawful restraint is treated as a Class A misdemeanor. If convicted, you could face up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $4,000. This is the standard penalty unless there are aggravating factors.

If the person you restrained was under 17 years old, the crime escalates to a state jail felony. The penalty for a state jail felony includes confinement in a state jail for 180 days to two years, and you may also be fined up to $10,000.

The offense becomes a third-degree felony if it involved recklessly exposing someone to serious bodily injury, restraining a public servant performing their duties, or if you restrained someone while in custody or in a civil commitment facility. This more serious felony can result in 2 to 10 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.

If the person you restrained is a peace officer or judge, and they were performing their duties at the time, the crime is elevated to a second-degree felony. A conviction for this classification can carry a penalty of 2 to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

In Texas, if you're convicted of unlawful restraint, you might not have to go to jail. Instead, you could be placed under community supervision, often called probation. This means you live in your community under set rules instead of going to jail. You must meet regularly with a probation officer and follow specific conditions like curfews, employment, and possibly counseling sessions.

Potential Defenses in Unlawful Restraint Cases

In Texas, if you're charged with unlawful restraint, it's important to know the defenses that could apply to your case. A key defense is the intent behind the restraint. Not all actions to control another's movements are criminal. For instance, if the person you restrained was under 14 years old and you are a relative aiming to lawfully take charge of the child, this can be a defense. You must prove that your sole purpose was to take lawful control, not to harm or endanger the child.

Another defense arises if you restrained a child who is 14 to 17 years old without using force, intimidation, or deception and you are no more than three years older than the child.

Additionally, it's no offense to detain or move someone if you're doing so to lawfully arrest them or if they were already lawfully detained. This could apply if you are a security professional or involved in a similar role where you might need to restrain someone as part of your job duties.

Shopkeeper's privilege allows store owners or employees to detain someone they suspect of shoplifting to check if the person has stolen anything. This right is meant to help merchants protect their property. However, it must be done reasonably in terms of the way the suspected person is detained, the duration of the detention, and where it takes place. While Texas law lets shopkeepers detain suspected shoplifters to investigate, it doesn’t automatically allow them to offer a theft prevention course instead of calling the police. This detention is strictly for confirming if theft occurred.

Understanding these defenses and whether they might apply to your situation is crucial. Each case is unique, and the specific circumstances will significantly impact what defenses are most appropriate.

Criminal Process for Individuals Facing Unlawful Restraint Charges

If you're investigated or charged with unlawful restraint in Texas, here's what typically happens: First, you might be arrested and taken to jail. You can then post bail to be released while waiting for your court date. When your case goes to court, you'll have the chance to enter a plea—guilty, not guilty, or no contest. If you plead not guilty, your case will go to trial where evidence will be shown, and witnesses can speak. During the trial, both the defense and prosecution will present their cases. If you're found guilty, the judge will decide your punishment. If you're not guilty, you'll be free to go. Throughout this process, having a lawyer is very important.

Role of an Unlawful Restraint Lawyer in Texas

A criminal defense lawyer's role is to protect your rights throughout the legal process and to provide a defense that challenges the prosecution's claims against you. They will look closely at how the authorities handled your case for errors.

A defense lawyer also prepares and argues your case in court. They will question witnesses, challenge the evidence presented against you, and aim to create reasonable doubt about your guilt. If appropriate, your lawyer will negotiate with prosecutors to possibly reduce your charges or the severity of your sentence. This could mean less time in custody or avoiding jail time altogether.

Having a defense lawyer means having someone on your side who understands the legal system and knows how to manage court procedures effectively. They provide not just legal representation but also moral support during a time that can be stressful and uncertain.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is unlawful restraint? Unlawful restraint happens when you stop someone from moving freely without their consent, through physical means, threats, or deception.

Is physical force necessary for it to be unlawful restraint? No, you can commit this crime by intimidation or deception, not just physical force.

What are the penalties for unlawful restraint? It ranges from a Class A misdemeanor to a second-degree felony, depending on the situation, like if the victim is a public servant or under 17.

Can I face jail time for unlawful restraint? Yes, depending on the severity, you might face up to 20 years in prison.

Are there any defenses against unlawful restraint charges? Yes, including proving the restraint was lawful, such as in a lawful arrest, or if the restrained person was a child and you're a relative aiming to lawfully take charge.

Does unlawful restraint always lead to arrest? Not always. Each case is different and factors like evidence and the situation play a big role.

What should I do if I’m charged with unlawful restraint? Contact a criminal defense lawyer immediately to understand your rights and prepare your defense.

Can I just be put on probation for unlawful restraint? Yes, particularly for less severe cases, probation is possible instead of jail time.

What if I restrained someone but it was a misunderstanding? Misunderstandings can be a defense if you can prove there was no intent to unlawfully restrain.

Contact An Austin Unlawful Restraint Attorney From Our Firm

If you're facing allegations of unlawful restraint, it's crucial to get legal advice. At Cofer & Connelly, PLLC, our experienced criminal defense attorneys understand the stakes and are prepared to defend your rights and freedoms. Our firm combines over a century of legal expertise, thousands of criminal cases handled, and significant jury trial experience to provide top-tier defense in Texas. You can contact Cofer & Connelly, PLLC by calling (512) 991-0576 or contacting us online for a consultation with an unlawful restraint attorney. Our goal is to provide the best possible outcome for your situation.

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