aggravated kidnapping

Aggravated Kidnapping | Texas Criminal Defense Attorney

What is Aggravated Kidnapping?

Aggravated Kidnapping is a first-degree felony in Texas that occurs when someone abducts a person against his or her will with the intent of committing certain acts, such sexually or physically abusing the victim, holding the victim for ransom, or terrorizing the victim. As a first-degree felony, Aggravated Kidnapping is  punishable by 5 to 99 years or life in prison along with a fine of up to $10,000.

Aggravated Kidnapping in the News

Fort Worth was shaken up last week as news spread of 8-year-old Salem Sabatka being abducted from her mother's side by in broad daylight. Thankfully, good samaritans from a local church were able to track down the vehicle used in the kidnapping, which ultimately led to Salem being rescued.

Michael Webb, 51, is currently in custody on an Aggravated Kidnapping charge. 

Michael Webb Arrested

What's going to happen to Michael Webb?

Federal Kidnapping

The Federal Kidnapping Act (also known as the Lindbergh Law) is codified at 18 USC 1201.

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The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act was enacted in July 2006. It expanded federal jurisdiction to encompass almost ever kidnapping by giving federal courts jurisdiction over any kidnapping case where the kidnapper uses a channel or instrumentality of interstate commerce. Simply using the internet to look up a hotel or even look for directions creates a sufficient nexus to interstate commerce to give rise to federal jurisdiction. Under 18 USC § 1201(g)(1), Kidnapping a minor (under the age of eighteen) carries a minimum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.

What is Kidnapping?

Kidnapping is intentionally or knowingly abducting another by restraining them without consent by moving them from one place to another or confining them with the intent to prevent their liberation. The offense rises to “aggravated kidnapping” if it is accompanied by some aggravating factor.

What Makes a Kidnapping Aggravated?

According to Penal Code 20.04, a kidnapping becomes aggravated if the accused:

  1. held the person for ransom or reward
  2. used the person as a shield or hostage
  3. the kidnapping was to facilitate a felony or flight after the commission or attempted commission of the felony
  4. was abused sexually or inflicted with bodily injury
  5. terrorized the kidnapped person or another person
  6. interfered with the performance of any governmental or political function.
  7. used or exhibited a deadly weapon during the kidnapping.

What Does it Mean to “Restrain” a Person?

Penal Code Section 20.01(1) defines the word “restrain” as restriction of 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.

This definition is a little counterintuitive because it seems to cover a lot more than just restraint. For example, if a defendant places a woman in the trunk of his car without her consent, and then either keeps her there, or drives off with her, the defendant has restrained her according to the penal code definition. Restraint without consent is accomplished by force, intimidation, or deception. Restraint without consent is also accomplished by any means, including acquiescence or agreement of the victim if it is a child, 14 or younger, or an incompetent person and the parent or guardian has not agreed to the movement or confinement. Restraint without consent is also accomplished by any means including acquiescence. Notice that you don’t have to physically move someone from one place to another in order to abduct them. You merely need to hold them in a place where they’re not likely to be found.

What Does it Mean to “Abduct” a Person?

Penal Code 20.01(2) defines “abduct” as restraining a person with intent to prevent his liberation by:

(A) secreting or holding him in a place where he is not likely to be found; or (B) using or threatening to use deadly force.

How Much Time Can You Get for Aggravated Kidnapping?

As mentioned, aggravated kidnapping is a first-degree felony punishable by up to life in prison. According to data compiled by the Texas Tribune, most individuals convicted of aggravated kidnapping serve sentences greater than 40 years in length.

 

Aggravated Kidnapping is a 3G Offense in Texas

Aggravated kidnapping is 3G offense, which requires an inmate to serve have of his or her sentence before being eligible for parole.

Kidnapping as a Federal Offense

18 USC 1201 also makes kidnapping a federal offense if the act took place over state lines, if the kidnapping occurred in a federal territory, or if the person kidnapped  is a foreign official or internationally-protected person.

Smuggling of a Person

Related to kidnapping is the offense of Smuggling a Person. Penal Code 20.05 defines smuggling a person as transporting and concealing an individual, for financial benefit, to conceal them from law enforcement or to help them flee from law enforcement.

Contact us

If you or a loved one has been charged with kidnapping or aggravated kidnapping, it’s imperative to contact a skilled defense attorney as soon as possible. Call us at (817) 203-2220 for a complimentary strategy session. Our team of former prosecutors and Board Certified Criminal Lawyers will:

  • Discuss the facts of your case;
  • Discuss the legal issues involved, including the direct and collateral consequences of the allegation; and
  • Discuss the defenses that apply to your plan and in general terms discuss our approach to your case.

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Penal Code Section 20.04: Aggravated Kidnapping

(a)  A person commits an offense if he intentionally or knowingly abducts another person with the intent to:

(1)  hold him for ransom or reward;

(2)  use him as a shield or hostage;

(3)  facilitate the commission of a felony or the flight after the attempt or commission of a felony;

(4)  inflict bodily injury on him or violate or abuse him sexually;

(5)  terrorize him or a third person;  or

(6)  interfere with the performance of any governmental or political function.

(b)  A person commits an offense if the person intentionally or knowingly abducts another person and uses or exhibits a deadly weapon during the commission of the offense.

(c)  Except as provided by Subsection (d), an offense under this section is a felony of the first degree.

(d)  At the punishment stage of a trial, the defendant may raise the issue as to whether he voluntarily released the victim in a safe place.  If the defendant proves the issue in the affirmative by a preponderance of the evidence, the offense is a felony of the second degree.

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Benson Varghese

Managing Partner at Varghese Summersett PLLC
Benson Varghese is the founder and Managing Partner of Varghese Summersett PLLC. He is a prolific writer and has authored hundreds of articles about criminal law in Texas and at the Federal level. His articles have been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Above the Law, and have been selected as Top Blogs by the State Bar of Texas. He was named the Young Lawyer of the Year in 2019 by the Tarrant County Bar Association. Benson led the firm to become one of the 500 fastest growing businesses in the United States by Inc 500 Magazine in 2018. In the same year, the firm was named the Best Law Firm in Fort Worth by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The lawyers at Varghese Summersett PLLC exclusively handle criminal defense matters.
Benson Varghese
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