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How Does Texas Define Kidnapping and What Kinds of Penalties Do You Face?

Texas has three degrees of kidnapping - first, second and third degree. All three are felony charges, but first degree is the most serious charge, followed by the second and then third degree. Actions involved with kidnapping determine which type of felony authorities charge.

First degree

Texas Penal Code Chapter § 20.04 defines first degree kidnapping as aggravated kidnapping. For intentionally or knowingly abducting an individual, kidnapping charges are first degree when they include the intent to do the following:

  • Hold for ransom or reward
  • Use as a shield or hostage
  • Inflict bodily harm or sexual abuse
  • Terrorize the kidnapped person or a third party
  • Interfere with government performance or political function
  • Use or exhibit a deadly weapon during the abduction
  • Use the kidnapping to facilitate the commission of a felony or flight after attempting to commit or committing a felony

Second degree

A second degree kidnapping involves the same actions as a first degree kidnapping, except courts reduce charges to second degree when the kidnapper voluntarily releases the victim in a safe place.

Third degree

Third degree kidnapping charges involve intentionally or knowingly abducting someone but without the intent to use or threaten deadly force. Also, when the abductor is a relative or the intent was to assume lawful control of the victim, this mitigates the charge to a first degree felony.

Potential sentences

Felonies carry serious penalties if convicted. For commission of a first degree felony, you can serve a minimum of five years and maximum of life in prison. For a second degree felony you can serve a minimum of two years and maximum of 20 years in prison. A third degree felony carries a possible penalty of two years to 10 years in prison.

With any kidnapping charge your freedom is at stake, and you should protect your rights by seeking legal representation from an experienced El Paso criminal defense lawyer.