In Texas, it is crucial to distinguish between unlawful restraint and kidnapping. Though similar, the two distinct crimes hold different implications, especially in terms of punishment. Unlawful restraint is a misdemeanor, meaning that its punishment is less than a year in prison. On the other hand, kidnapping is a felony with a two to 10 year sentence and a fine of $10,000.
In Texas, the crime of unlawful restraint makes it illegal to intentionally or knowingly restrain someone. The Texas Penal Code (the “Code”) defines restraint as “restrict[ing] 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. Restraint is “without consent” if it is accomplished by:
Force, intimidation, or deception; or
Any means, including acquiescence of the victim, if:
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
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.
In other words, unlawful restraint occurs when the actor uses substantial interference of a person’s liberty by using force or deception. If the actor uses any means for someone under the age of fourteen then it is also unlawful restraint.
For the crime of kidnapping, the Code provides that a “person commits an offense if he intentionally or knowingly abducts another person.” Similarly, aggravated kidnapping occurs when “A person commits an offense if he intentionally or knowingly abducts another person with the intent to:
Hold him for ransom or reward;
Use him 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 on him or violate or abuse him sexually;