Aggravated Kidnapping in Texas
Aggravated kidnapping in Texas is a serious charge and is usually associated with abducting another person with intent to cause them bodily injury, sexually abuse them or in the commission of another felony offense. This is sometimes also associated with the unlawful carrying of a weapon.
Relatively speaking, aggravated kidnapping charges in Texas are rare. Most defendants will be charged under the type of underlying criminal code provision that gives rise to an aggravated kidnapping charge rather than to the higher level offense of aggravated kidnapping.
However, if you are charged with aggravated kidnapping in Texas or suspect you will be, you will need a vigorous defense and you will need to be concerned about public media. Because aggravated kidnapping charges are so rare, they are the type of cases that will often garner the most public attention and are often associated with murder charges and other sex crimes.
Aggravated Kidnapping Defense Attorney
If you are charged with aggravated kidnapping in Texas or are concerned you are about to be charged, you need to contact an experienced board certified criminal defense attorney, like Jodi Soyars, right away. Jodi Soyars and her team of defense attorneys at Soyars & Morgan Law work hard to make sure you are protected from the harsh punishments these types of cases carry with them.
Whether you have been rightfully or wrongfully accused of aggravated kidnapping in Texas, you will need an aggressive aggravated kidnapping defense attorney, like Jodi Soyars, helping you get the case dismissed or reduced to a misdemeanor.
Alternatively, there are instances where it is beneficial for a client to plead to a carefully constructed aggravated kidnapping or attempted kidnapping charge to avoid conviction on a more serious sex crime that would trigger sex offender registration requirements.
So, even if you are not currently charged with aggravated kidnapping in Texas, there may be instances in which an experienced board certified attorney, like Jodi Soyars, will consider the benefits (if any) to taking a plea under a non-sex offender provisions to aggravated kidnapping in Texas.
What is Aggravated Kidnapping in Texas?
Texas Penal Code Section 20.04 defines aggravated kidnapping in Texas as a first degree felony if the person intentionally or knowingly abducted another person while using or exhibiting a deadly weapon or had the intent to:
1) Hold the person for ransom or reward;
2) Use the person 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 the person or violate or abuse the person sexually;
5) Terrorize either the person abducted or a third person;
6) Interfere with the performance of any governmental or political function; or
Defenses to Aggravated Kidnapping in Texas
The punishment level for an aggravated kidnapping in Texas is reduced to a second degree felony if at the punishment stage of trial the defendant proves he voluntarily released the victim in a safe place. It is unclear whether the release must be done by the actual defendant personally or whether a constructive release (calling the police with directions to find the victim) is sufficient.
Cases that have held that the defendant voluntarily released the victim in a safe place after an aggravated kidnapping in Texas considered factors like the remoteness of the location the victim was released in, the proximity to authorities or other persons who could aid or assist the victim, climatic conditions, condition of the victim, character of the surrounding location or neighborhood, and the victim’s familiarity with the location or neighborhood.
How to Defend Against Aggravated Kidnapping in Texas
Depending on the facts in your aggravated kidnapping case, an experienced criminal defense attorney will consider whether a plea to a lower level offense such as kidnapping (a third degree felony) or unlawful restraint (a misdemeanor) would be in your best interest. However, if that is not an option, other approaches should be considered.
Motions to quash the indictment in a Texas aggravated kidnapping case should always be considered. If the indictment fails to allege which statutory definition of the act the State is relying on for prosecution in aggravated kidnapping case. The criminal defense attorney must file the motion to quash the aggravated kidnapping indictment prior to trial and obtain a ruling on the motion to quash or the error is waived.
Additionally, there is no definition for the term “terrorize” that is used in the Texas aggravated kidnapping statute. Courts have held that the term “terrorize” is to be given its common dictionary meaning. The determination of whether one intended to “terrorize” is made by looking at the entire relationship between the defendant and the victim and not just the actual circumstances of the abduction. Texas cases have found that maintaining a firearm within the victim’s sight was sufficient to show the defendant intended to terrorize the victim for purposes of the Texas aggravated kidnapping statute.
How are Aggravated Kidnapping Defenses different in Texas
Unlike other statutory defenses, the safe release of an aggravated kidnapping victim defense in Texas places the burden of persuasion on the defendant (not the State).
Ordinarily, the State of Texas has the burden to disprove beyond a reasonable doubt any defense asserted by a defendant once the defendant presents any proof that he is entitled to the defense. However, in aggravated kidnapping cases, the defendant must prove the victim was released in a safe place by a preponderance of the evidence in order to have the offense level reduced from a first degree felony (5-99 years or life in prison) to a second degree felony (2-20 years in prison).
Additionally, unlike other affirmative defenses available to the defendant under the Texas Penal Code, the affirmative defense for the safe release of the victim in an aggravated kidnapping case is not decided in the guilt/innocence phase of trial. This means that the jury/trial court will not be allowed to consider the safe release of the victim issue and how it affects the level of the offense until the punishment phase of trial.
Aggravated Kidnapping Defense from an Experienced Legal Team
If you or someone you know is accused of aggravated kidnapping in Texas, it is crucial to seek legal assistance from qualified and experienced attorneys.
At Soyars & Morgan Law, we are familiar with the complexity of the legal system and can assist you in constructing a solid defense. Our team of expert attorneys will safeguard your rights and guide you through the criminal justice system.
Contact us right away to book a consultation and learn more about how we can assist you in pursuing the best potential conclusion for your case. Call us at (210) 390-0000 for the legal representation you deserve.