Legal Defense for Kidnapping Allegations in Texas
Kidnapping accusations can arise from a number of situations, such as false allegations by a parent against another parent, guardian or family member that has taken a child, when one or more parent refuses to abide by a child custody plan, or even in circumstances when an adult is trying to help a child locate their rightful parents or guardians. If you have been falsely accused of a kidnapping offense in Texas, it is important to contact a knowledgeable family violence defense lawyer as soon as possible after the investigation begins.
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Before you can be convicted of any kidnapping offense, the state prosecutor must prove you committed every element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. This can often be a difficult burden of proof to satisfy. If the fact-finder, also known as the jury or judge, has any doubt you committed every element of the kidnapping offense, the charges against you may be reduced or even dismissed. Therefore, it is very important to contact a lawyer as soon as possible to help you identify the best defense strategy for your particular situation.
The attorneys of Dunham & Jones are highly experienced in these cases and will make every to fight the false kidnapping accusations against you. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.
Understanding the Laws Regarding Kidnapping in Texas
Under Texas law, kidnapping offenses generally involve the following, according to section 20.01 of the Texas Penal Code:
Restraint, including unlawful restraint, which means an individual’s movements are restricted without their consent by moving the individual from one place to another or by confining the individual so the restraints substantially interfere with their liberty. Restraint is without consent if:
- It is completed through force, intimidation or deception;
- It is accomplished by any other means, including acquiescence of the alleged victim if:
- They are a child under the age of 14 or an incompetent person and the parent, guardian or person or institution acting in place of the parent has not agreed to the movement or confinement; or
- They are a child who is 14 years of age or older but younger than 17 years of age, are taken outside of the state and outside of a 120-mile radius from their residence, and the parent, guardian or institution acting in place of the parent has not agreed to the movement.
Abduction, which is defined as the restraint of an individual with the intent to prevent them to be freed by:
- Hiding or holding the victim in a place where they are not likely to be found; or
- Using or threatening to use deadly force.
What Constitutes Kidnapping?
According to section 20.03 of the Texas Penal Laws, an individual can be charged with kidnapping if they intentionally or knowingly abduct another person.
A certain state of mind is a required element for kidnapping offenses. These can include whether the defendant acted knowingly or with knowledge or if they acted intentionally. These mental states are defined in the Texas Penal Code as follows:
- Intentionally – An individual can act with an intentional mental state or act intentionally if they commit a specific act, and it is in their desire or conscious objective to commit the specific act or to intentionally cause the result of the act.
- Knowingly – An individual can act with a knowing mental state if they commit an act and they are aware their actions are reasonably certain to cause a specific result from the actions.
Penalties for Convicted Kidnappers
Chapter 12 of the Texas Penal Code defines the basic punishments and penalties to a kidnapping conviction; however, these penalties can vary depending on many factors, such as whether:
- The alleged offender has a prior criminal conviction,
- The alleged offender is considered a habitual offender,
- The alleged offender is considered a repeat felony offender,
- The alleged offender used a weapon during the commission of the offense,
- The alleged victim was elderly or a child, and/or
- The offense resulted in death or serious bodily injury.
An individual who has been charged with a kidnapping offense can face a conviction for a felony of the third degree, which is punishable by two to ten years in prison and/or a fine up to $10,000.
Additionally, a conviction for kidnapping can result in any of the following additional repercussions:
- An inability to own or possess a firearm;
- An inability to apply for certain education programs;
- An inability to apply for certain jobs, occupations or professions;
- Ineligibility to hold public office or vote;
- Loss of certain professional licenses; and/or
- A criminal record.
Potential Defenses for Alleged Offenders
Occasionally in situations involving kidnapping accusation, there may be defenses or mitigating factors available for your defense. However, these defenses and factors are not applicable to every situation, so it is important to speak to an experienced family crime attorney about the particular facts in your situation to determine if any of the defenses listed below may apply to your case. Some of the most common defenses can include:
- Lack of Intent
- Lack of Knowledge
- Mistake of Fact
- Mistaken Identity
Additionally, an affirmative defense may be available in certain situations involving an alleged kidnapping offense. An affirmative defense may apply if the alleged offender admits to committing the offense, but the offense is not considered a crime in their particular case for a specific reason. An affirmative defense to kidnapping in Texas must include the following three elements:
- The alleged offender did not have the intent to use or threaten to use deadly force during the commission of the abduction;
- The alleged offender was a relative of the alleged victim; and
- The alleged offender’s intent was to lawfully control the victim.
This defense is generally available in child custody cases, or where one parent or guardian is attempting to take lawful control of their child.
Contact Our Firm to Fight Kidnapping Charges
If you have been accused of a kidnapping offense in Texas, contact Dunham & Jones, Attorneys at Law today. Our Family Violence attorneys are experienced criminal defense attorneys who will make every effort to help you avoid the most serious penalties and repercussion to the allegations against you. Call 800-499-8455 or complete our online form to schedule your FREE consultation.