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Houston Unlawful Restraint Defense Attorney

Board Certified Unlawful Restraint Attorney in Greater Houston, TX

Restraining someone unlawfully in Texas can get you into some serious trouble. If you have been charged with unlawful restraint in Houston, or in any surrounding communities, the first thing you need to know is the law and how it applies to your situation. The second thing you should know is that an experienced, Board Certified criminal defense lawyer can help—so all hope is not lost because you were arrested and charged.

Doug Murphy is a Board Certified criminal defense lawyer who commits to his clients' defense. He is also a veteran trial attorney, which is important, because he doesn't settle your case with the prosecutor unless it is absolutely in your best interests. He prefers to anticipate trial to make the prosecution prove you are guilty, and if the prosecutor can't, then the jury can't find you guilty. Doug Murphy holds the State, the judge, and the jury accountable to the principle that you are innocent unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Unlawful Restraint & What the Offense Means in Texas

If you intentionally or knowingly restrain another person, then you commit the offense of Unlawful Restraint according to Tex. Pen. Code § 20.02. To better understand what this means, key terms need to be defined according to their statutory meaning.


According to Tex. Pen. Code § 20.01, "restrain" means

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.

Without Consent

According to Tex. Pen. Code § 20.01, consent does not exist if you restrict a person's movements through

(A) force, intimidation, or deception; or
(B) any means, including acquiescence of the victim, if:
(i) 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
(ii) 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.

Knowingly or Intentionally

Your mental state at the time an alleged crime is committed can mean the difference between a verdict of guilty or not guilty. According to Texas law, knowingly and intentionally are culpable mental states that—if present—fulfill an element of the crime. Likewise, without the mental state, all the elements of the crime are not satisfied.

According to Tex. Pen. Code § 6.03, you act intentionally, or with intent , when it is your "conscious objective or desire to engage in the conduct or cause the result." According to the same section, you act knowingly, or with knowledge, when you are aware of the nature of your conduct or are aware your "conduct is reasonably certain to cause the result."

If you intentionally and knowingly restrain another person without consent and in accordance with the above definitions, then you could be found guilty of unlawful restraint in Texas. But Doug Murphy challenges the State's arguments each step of the way to weaken or prove faulty the State's charges against you. If you have been charged with unlawful restraint, you may have a defense, and you always can have a defense strategy if you retain the lawyer.

Defenses Against Unlawful Restraint

Doug Murphy looks at all aspects of your case, from the moment you were arrested until the moment you hire him, to the moment the case is dismissed, you are acquitted, or you are sentenced. He will create a comprehensive defense strategy to counter the State's claims on all fronts. Part of this strategy could include affirmative defenses, constitutional challenges, procedural challenges, or—among other means—challenges to witness testimony.

Affirmative Defenses

Affirmative defenses are defenses where you admit you performed the act but did so lawfully, meaning you have a legally permissible reason to perform the act. Insanity is a general affirmative defense where the person admits to doing the unlawful act but had a reason to do it: mental defect or mental disease. When you assert an affirmative defense, it usually can defeat the State's charge against you, but you must prove it by a preponderance of evidence.

There are two affirmative defenses related to unlawful restraint that are defined by Tex. Pen. Code § 20.02.

According to Tex. Pen. Code § 20.02(b), you have an affirmative defense to unlawful restraint if

  • A child was the subject of the restraint;
  • You are a relative of that child; and
  • Your only purpose was lawful control of the child.

Likewise, according to Tex. Pen. Code § 20.02(e), if a child was again the subject of the restraint, there is an affirmative defense if

  • The child was between the ages of 14 and 17;
  • You did not restrain the child by force, intimidation, or deception; and
  • You yourself are only three years older than the child.

Constitutional Challenges

When an affirmative defense does not exist, you still have options. Doug Murphy will review the handling of your arrest and everything that happened before and after it as it pertains to law enforcement. The police are sometimes known to improperly gather evidence. If the latter occurred, Doug Murphy will identify it and respond appropriately and strategically.

As a defendant, you should know that whether you are innocent or guilty, you have Constitutional rights. Law enforcement must respect those rights. As such, you must be read your Miranda rights in accordance with the law. If you or your property is searched or seized, a warrant must have been properly requested, obtained, and executed. In general,

  • A police officer cannot intimidate you to make a statement.
  • A police officer cannot search your person or property without consent or a proper warrant.
  • A police officer cannot exceed the scope of the search warrant.

But it doesn't end there. Doug Murphy considers all facts and determines if any Constitutional violation was made, and if so, he will move the court to suppress the evidence that flowed from that violation.

Procedural Challenges

Law enforcement are not bound by the Constitution alone, but also by procedures. Officers—either intentionally or not—can mishandle evidence. There are procedures in place to safeguard evidence, but this evidence goes through a chain of custody that increases the chances of mishandling. If evidence is tampered or altered in any way so that it has been compromised, or if it has been outright lost or misplaced, then Doug Murphy will challenge the credibility of the evidence. Without the evidence, the State may be forced to dismiss the case, or the State may be forced to reconsider its weakened case against you.

Challenging the Witnesses

The prosecution will likely have witness testimony to present, and this testimony can be from expert and/or lay witnesses. Doug Murphy will challenge those witnesses based on their credibility and competency. Lay witnesses specifically are only permitted to testify as to what they observed, and if they offer opinions or hearsay (in most cases), Doug Murphy will move the court to strike the testimony. These are only a few examples of how Doug Murphy will challenge witnesses to the crime of unlawful restraint.

Penalties for Unlawful Restraint

Penalties of an unlawful restraint conviction vary depending on the classification and circumstances. If convicted, you can expect jail and fees as part of the sentencing. You can also expect collateral consequences that can be more damaging than jail time, like losing your job, finding it hard to get another job, and finding good housing, among other difficulties made by having a criminal record.





Unlawful Restraint, §20.02(a)

Class A misdemeanor

Up to one year

Up to $4,000

Unlawful Restraint of a person less than 17 years old, §20.02(c)(1)

State Jail felony

180 days to two years in state jail

Up to $10,000

Unlawful Restraint, §20.02(c)(2), and

  • Recklessly exposing victim to substantial risk of serious bodily injury, or
  • Knowing that the victim is on-duty public servant, or
  • While in custody restrains another person

Third Degree felony

2 - 10 years in state prison

Up to $10,000

Unlawful Restraint knowing the person is an on-duty peace officer or judge, §20.02(c)(3)

Second Degree felony

2 - 20 years in state prison

Up to $10,000

The stakes are high. Retain an experienced, Board Certified criminal defense lawyer today.

Contact Our Houston Unlawful Restraint Defense Attorney

If you have been charged with unlawful restraint, you have a legal battle ahead of you—that is, if you don't want to spend time behind bars and pay a lot in fees and fines. Doug Murphy, a veteran criminal defense trial attorney, has the insight and the resources to provide comprehensive and aggressive criminal defense. His capabilities have been recognized by the legal community, which has endorsed his name through accolades and frequent invitations to speak at seminars so that he can provide his insight and teach legal defense skills to other criminal defense attorneys throughout Texas and the United States.

At Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C., you can expect commitment and the best result according to the facts and circumstances of your case. Contact Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. today at 713-229-8333.

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