What Counts as Kidnapping in Texas?

In the state of Texas, kidnapping is a serious offense. The crime is defined and categorized under various statutes in the Texas Penal Code, and it carries severe penalties for those convicted. This article will delve into the legal definition of kidnapping, the different types of charges a person can face for kidnapping, and the penalties for each.

Kidnapping in Texas

According to the Texas Penal Code § 20.03, kidnapping occurs when an individual knowingly or intentionally abducts another person. Legally, to abduct a person means to restrain a person intending to prevent their freedom by using threats or actual deadly force or holding the person in a place where they are not likely to be found.

Kidnapping is generally classified as a third-degree felony in Texas. This offense carries a penalty of two to ten years in state prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.

Defenses Against Texas Kidnapping Charges

Defending against a kidnapping charge in Texas requires a strong legal strategy. Here are some common defenses that can be used:

  • Consent. One of the key elements of kidnapping is that the person was taken against their will. If the defendant can show that the alleged victim consented to go with them, this could potentially serve as a defense.

  • Lack of intent. If it can be proven that there was no intent to kidnap or harm the individual, this can be used as a defense. This might apply in situations where a misunderstanding led to the charges.

  • Insufficient evidence. The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime. If there is not enough evidence to meet this standard, the charges may be dropped, or the defendant may be acquitted.

  • Mistaken identity. In some cases, the alleged kidnapper may not be the actual perpetrator. This could be due to a case of mistaken identity or false accusation.

  • Duress or necessity. These defenses involve situations where the defendant was forced to commit the offense under threat of immediate harm, or where the offense was committed to prevent greater harm.

  • Unlawful detention. If the police violated the defendant's rights during the arrest or detention process, any evidence obtained because of those violations may be suppressed, potentially weakening the prosecution's case.

Aggravated Kidnapping

Under § 20.04 of the Texas Penal Code, a person commits aggravated kidnapping if they intentionally or knowingly abduct another person with the intention to:

  • Hold the person for ransom, reward, or other forms of compensation

  • Use the person as a hostage or shield

  • Facilitate the execution of a criminal act or assist in escaping after attempting or committing a felony crime

  • Inflict bodily injury on the person or violate or abuse the person sexually

  • Torment the person or a third party

  • Interfere with the performance of any governmental or political function

Aggravated kidnapping is considered a first-degree felony in Texas, which can result in:

  • a life sentence or a term of 5 to 99 years of imprisonment, and

  • a potential fine of up to $10,000.

Smuggling of Persons

Smuggling a person is slightly different than committing a kidnapping.Under § 20.05, a person commits an offense if they intentionally use a motor vehicle, aircraft, watercraft, or another means of conveyance to transport an individual with the intent to:

  • Conceal the individual from a peace officer or special investigator

  • Flee from a person the actor knows is a peace officer or special investigator attempting to lawfully arrest or detain the actor

Depending on case specifics, this offense can be charged with a second-degree or first-degree felony. A second-degree felony is punishable by up to 20 years of imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000.

What Is Considered Parental Kidnapping in Texas?

Parental kidnapping in Texas occurs when a parent takes a child in violation of a judge's mandate. This can happen regardless of whether the mandate was from a temporary proceeding or a formal custody order. Like other forms of kidnapping, parental kidnapping is a third-degree felony that involves intentionally or knowingly abducting another person6.

In cases of alleged parental kidnapping, if the accused parent can demonstrate they had legal custody of the child at the time, it could serve as a defense. However, this would not apply if there was a violation of a court order.

Consult with Experienced Defense Attorneys

If you or a loved one have been charged with kidnapping, the attorneys at The Clark Law Firm can help you understand your legal rights and options and develop a personalized defense strategy. When you retain our firm, you can trust that we will act in your best interest and work tirelessly to help secure you the best possible outcome. Call (817) 435-4970 to get started on your case today.


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