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Texas Kidnapping Laws

Kidnapping is a horrifying crime. In the modern context kidnapping may describe a range of situations, from a stranger snatching a child off of the street to an estranged parent absconding with their child in order to deny the other parent custody. Kidnappings may take place in order to extort a ransom, to permit the kidnapper to abuse the abductee, or to use the hostage as a bargaining chip with authorities.

Texas laws clarify about how the state defines the crime of kidnapping, the possible defenses, and the penalties that may result from a conviction for the crime. The following chart provides details:

Statute Texas Kidnapping Statute - Texas Penal Code, Title 5, Chapter 20, Sections 20.03 - 20.04
Unlawful Purpose

A defendant has committed the crime of kidnapping if he or she intentionally or knowingly abducts another person. This situation often arises within the divorced or separated family context as well. The most commonly publicized cases involve the kidnapping of a child by one of the child's parents while the child is in the custody of the other parent.

In Texas, the defendant can be convicted of the higher crime of aggravated kidnapping if he or she has committed a kidnapping and had the intent to do one of the following:

  • Hold the victim for a ransom or reward;
  • Use the victim as a shield or hostage;
  • Aid in the commission of a felony or an escape after committing the felony;
  • Inflict bodily injury on the victim or sexually violate or abuse the victim;
  • Terrorize the victim or another person;
  • Interfere with the performance of any governmental or political function;
  • Uses or exhibits a deadly weapon during the crime.
Defenses to Kidnapping Charges
  • The defendant voluntarily released the victim in a safe place (NOTE: This is only a partial defense and may only result in the decrease of the penalty and charge by one degree.)
  • Lack of intent to use deadly force
  • Lack of knowledge
  • The defendant is a relative of the victim
  • The defendant's only intent was to gain lawful control of the victim
Penalties and Sentences

Texas kidnapping laws classify the crime as a third degree felony. This carries a penalty of two to ten years in a state prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000. If the crime is elevated to aggravated kidnapping, the defendant will be charged with a first degree felony. This carries a penalty of five to ninety-nine years in a state prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000. This penalty may be reduced to being a second degree felony if at the punishment stage of the trial, the defendant can show through the evidence that he or she voluntarily released the victim in a safe place. If that defense succeeds, the penalty imposed may be two to twenty years in a state prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

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The long prison sentences and hefty fines mean that any kidnapping charge, regardless of the surrounding circumstances, must be taken seriously. In nearly all cases you'll need sophisticated legal experience with your case. Contact a local attorney for a free initial case assessment to discuss how they can help with your criminal defense.

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