At first glance, unlawful restraint and kidnapping may appear to be the same. They both involve restricting another person’s liberty, meaning the alleged victim isn’t free to go where or do what they want when they want to. Whether by restraint or kidnapping, the victim’s movements are prevented by someone else’s control.
But in Texas, unlawful restraint and kidnapping are two different offenses. We’ll look at the laws on both to help provide a better understanding of what each crime entails.
The Distinctions Between Unlawfully Restraining and Kidnapping
When a person unlawfully restrains someone, it means they are intentionally or knowingly interfering with that person’s liberty. The restriction can be done by taking them from one location to another or by confining them, such as locking them in a room.
For the State to prove that the defendant unlawfully restrained an individual, they must show that the conduct was nonconsensual. The offense is done without consent if the defendant used force, deception, or intimidation. However, if the alleged victim was under 17 years of age, it does not matter what methods the defendant used to restrict liberties.
Kidnapping is also done intentionally or knowingly. But what separates it from unlawful restraint is that it applies to abducting someone.
The law defines abducting as:
- Hiding a person someone they won’t be found, or
- Using or threatening to use deadly force
Harsher Penalties for Kidnapping
As kidnapping involves more severe conduct (using deadly force or keeping a person secreted), it is generally considered more serious than unlawful restraint. Now, we say “generally” because kidnapping is always charged as a third-degree felony. If the defendant is convicted, they could spend up to 10 years in prison and/or be fined up to $10,000.
In contrast, unlawful restraint is a Class A misdemeanor. The penalties for this level of charge, while still harsh, are much lower than those for kidnapping. A conviction may result in a maximum jail term of 1 year and/or a fine of up to $4,000.
However, under the following conditions, the charge can be increased (and in some cases to a higher level than kidnapping):
- If the victim is under 17 years of age, the offense is a state jail felony. Upon a conviction, the court can sentence the defendant to up to 2 years in state jail and/or fine them up to $10,000.
- If the conduct could have resulted in serious bodily injury to the victim, the victim was a public servant exercising their official duties, or the defendant was in custody at the time of the offense, it’s a third-degree felony. This level of charge is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
- If the victim was a peace officer or judged carrying out their lawful duties, the offense is a second-degree felony. The punishments include imprisonment for a maximum of 20 years and/or a fine of not more than $10,000.