Kidnapping is a serious offense and it occurs when you abduct someone against his or her will. It is closely related to unlawful restraint, so oftentimes these two offenses are charged simultaneously. If you are charged with this kind of offense, you should prepare yourself by understanding the law and what it means in Texas. A Board Certified Houston criminal defense lawyer is best positioned to help you through this legal process.
Doug Murphy, a veteran trial lawyer, is Board Certified in criminal law. He has been practicing for more than two decades. His commitment to his clients is proven both by his commitment to go to trial to obtain the best possible result and by his clients who express appreciation for his representation. If you have been charged with a kidnapping offense in Houston, Texas, or in any surrounding county, like Austin, Brazoria, Galveston, Grimes, Harris, Fort Bend, Liberty, Matagorda, Montgomery, or -- among other areas -- Waller Counties, contact Doug Murphy to learn more about how he can help you fight these kinds of charges.
The Meaning of Kidnapping in Texas
In Texas, according to Tex. Penal Code § 20.03(a), a person who intentionally or knowingly abducts another person has committed the act of kidnapping.
According to Tex. Penal Code § 20.04(b), if that person uses a deadly weapon while intentionally or knowingly abducting another person, it is aggravated kidnapping, which carries with it heavier sentencing. A person can also be charged with aggravated kidnapping in situations where that person kidnapped another person with the intent to commit certain acts. According to Tex. Penal Code § 20.04(a), you can be charged with aggravated kidnapping if you abducted another person with the intent to
- hold him or her for ransom or reward;
- use him or her as a shield or hostage;
- facilitate the commission of a felony or the flight after the attempt or commission of a felony;
- inflict bodily injury or sexually violate or abuse him or her;
- terrorize him, her or a third person; or
- interfere with the performance of any governmental or political function.
Knowing the specific terms of kidnapping will help you better understand its meaning in Texas, and there are two specific terms you should know: (1) abduct; and (2) knowingly and intentionally.
One element of kidnapping is the act of abducting, and this act must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in order for a conviction to be successful. Texas Penal Code § 20.01(2) defines “abduct” as the act of restraining a person with intent to prevent his or her freedom by (1) holding him or her in a place where he or she is not likely to be found; and/or (2) using or threatening to use deadly force.
Knowingly and Intentionally
In order to commit a kidnapping offense, you must have knowingly and intentionally abducted another person. Texas Penal Code § 6.03 outlines what it statutorily means in Texas to have the mental states of intention and knowing. You act intentionally when you consciously want to engage in an act, including an act of kidnapping. You act knowingly when you are aware of the circumstances and/or how those circumstances may result in the end. The mental state of knowing and intention must also be present in order for a conviction of kidnapping to succeed.
Kidnapping in Texas means that you intend to not allow another person to go free, and to that end, you use deadly force, threaten to use deadly force, and/or keep that person in a place where he or she will not likely be found. Abduction does not need to be forever in order for the act to have occurred. You can hold someone for a day and release that person, and it will still be an abduction. For instance, maybe you think your friend stole money from you, so you picked them up on the pretext you were going to the movies but then drive to the outskirts of town and lock the door and demand your money back. Here, even though you think you are morally in the right, you may be legally in the wrong. You abducted your friend by taking them to a place no one was likely to find them, and you intentionally did so knowing what you were doing.
Can Kidnapping be a Domestic Violence Crime in Texas?
In some circumstances, kidnapping can be a domestic violence crime in Texas. If the subject of the kidnapping was a family member or romantic partner, whether current or former, and the use or threat to use force was employed, then domestic violence can be tacked onto the charge.
Is Kidnapping a Crime Involving Moral Turpitude in Texas?
Kidnapping is generally held to be a crime involving moral turpitude. Crimes involving moral turpitude in Texas can include any criminal activity that entails dishonesty, deceit, fraud, misrepresentation, or deliberate violence. See Duncan v. Board of Disciplinary Appeals, 898 S.W.2d 759, 761 (Tex.1995).
Why does this matter to you? It matters because it can directly affect your future job prospects or any other prospects you may have if your criminal background is checked. A kidnapping charge signals you may be dangerous. If you are a parent who has been accused of kidnapping your child from the other parent, then a conviction matters. If you cannot provide for your child financially, then you could lose your custody battle. On the other hand, finding a job may be the least of your problems because if you are a noncitizen, a crime involving moral turpitude could mean deportation. These are reasons alone to fight the charge.
Defenses to a Texas Kidnapping Charge
Your defense is more about strategy than proving your innocence -- because you are innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt by the prosecutor. But so many people who have been charged with a crime feel that the system is already set up against them and accordingly plead guilty or take a plea deal without much consideration for the consequences of doing so. Once you plead guilty or take that plea deal, you have a criminal record that can disrupt your life in many ways, sometimes in unexpected ways. Even if you already have a criminal record, adding another crime to your record can further impact your life detrimentally.
In most cases, you should not plead guilty or even take a plea deal. Chances are if you go to trial and are represented by the right attorney, you can be acquitted. And even if you aren't acquitted, chances are still in your favor that the sentence will be less harsh than it would have been if you pleaded guilty outright or took a plea deal.
Doug Murphy anticipates trial specifically because -- from experience -- he knows the latter to be true. Your odds are always better when you fight the charge against you. But the will to fight the charge is only half the battle, you have to do it strategically and aggressively. That's what Doug Murphy offers. Your defense strategy is case specific and completely dependent on the facts and circumstances.
Under some circumstances, you may have an affirmative defense. Section 20.03(b) provides those circumstances.
- You did not have the intent to use or threaten to use deadly force.
- You are a relative of the person who was allegedly abducted.
- Your only intent was to take custody of the person lawfully, not abduct the person.
If your circumstances are not conducive to an affirmative defense, your attorney will look at all aspects of your case. Specifically, he will consider if there were any constitutional or procedural violations that would require evidence flowing from those violations to be suppressed. He will also prepare to aggressively cross-examine witnesses, both lay and expert witnesses, and hold them accountable to their testimonies.
Classification & Penalties for Kidnapping in Texas
If you are convicted of kidnapping or aggravated kidnapping, you can expect jail time and/or fines.
- If you were to be convicted under § 22.03(a), the offense is a third-degree felony, which could result in imprisonment in state prison anywhere between two and ten years and/or a fine not to exceed $10,000
- If you were to be convicted under § 22.03(a) or (b), the offense is a first-degree felony, which could result in imprisonment in state prison anywhere between five and 99 years and/or a fine not to exceed $10,000.
- If, however, you released the person into a safe environment and proved the same, the first-degree felony is reduced to a second-degree felony. A second-degree felony carries with it the state prison anywhere between two and twenty years and/or a fine not to exceed $10,000.
Other conditions can also be applied to your sentencing. Your sentence depends on the unique circumstances of your case, any mitigating or aggravating factors, how well your attorney argued on your behalf, and the judge sentencing you.
Kidnapping Criminal Defense Lawyer in Houston TX
If you have been charged with kidnapping, you need legal representation from someone with the experience, skills, resources, and insight to deliver the best results in your unique circumstances. Doug Murphy, a veteran criminal defense trial attorney and Board Certified in criminal law, takes a comprehensive, aggressive approach to defending his clients. 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.