Kidnapping is a terrible crime. And in the modern context, it can describe a number of situations — from a stranger snatching a child off the street to a parent who takes his or her child in an attempt to deny custody to the other parent. It can also take place in order to collect a ransom, to allow the kidnapper to abuse the abductee, or to use the kidnapped person as a bargaining chip with law enforcement. If you’re going through a divorce or any kind of child custody proceeding, you should never leave the state with your child without getting permission from the court and your former spouse. Even if you’re the biological parent, leaving the state with your child could be considered family kidnapping in the State of Texas
When You Can be Charged with Family Kidnapping in Texas
In the State of Texas, both parents have an equal right to spend time with their children. Even if you and your spouse have not filed for divorce, you don’t have the right to take your own child. If you want to surprise your child with a weekend trip, you have every legal right to do so. But it may cause some friction between you and your spouse. It holds no legal grounds for family kidnapping in the State of Texas, but it only applies to parents who haven’t filed for divorce. It also requires you to be the child’s biological parent. Simply functioning as that role isn’t enough to give you the right. If you’re engaged to someone with a child from a previous relationship, you don’t have the same rights as the biological parent.
Because child custody laws are complex, many people breach the grounds for kidnapping charges without realizing it. But this kind of charge won’t help your case in a child custody battle. According to Section 25.03 of the Texas Penal Code, family kidnapping occurs when a parent takes a child under the age of 18 when either of the following occurs:
- When taking the child violates a court order.
- When they’re not the child’s custodial parent.
- When there’s an open custody suit with regard to the child.
Texas courts take family kidnapping charges very seriously. In fact, the state considers it a felony. And for this reason, the punishment for a conviction is severe. Aside from paying a hefty fine, you could spend several years in a state prison. And if you held your child for ransom, used a deadly weapon at any time when the crime was committed, or abused your child, the penalties will be more severe. In the State of Texas, kidnapping refers to the taking of a person against his or her will from one place to another or holding someone at a specific location against his or her will. This person can even be your own child if the action wasn’t within your custodial rights.
Possible Defenses for Family Kidnapping in the State of Texas
In the State of Texas, you can be charged with family kidnapping if you take your child without having the legal right to control him or her. But there are three parts to a valid defense:
- You didn’t use or threatened to use deadly force.
- You are the child’s biological parent.
- You intend to take lawful physical control of your child.
Most family kidnapping cases depends on the “lawful control” component of this charge. It refers to your legal rights as a parent to have possession of your child, which is decided by the law or a court order instead of what’s considered fair, just, or right. Federal Law grants biological parents an exemption from being charged with kidnapping of their own children, but not if those rights have been legally terminated.
Returning your child to the appropriate jurisdiction within three days after the alleged offense occurred can also be used as a defense to prosecution. And if your actions with regard to taking the child were based on what was beyond your control and you gave prior notice, you can use this as a defense as well. Even attempting to give notice to the other parent can also be used as a defense against this type of crime.
Your Choice for a Criminal Defense Lawyer in Corpus Christi!
If you’re looking for the best criminal defense attorney in Corpus Christ, Gale Law Group has a team of people that can help you to come up with a solid defense. Whether you’re being charged with family kidnapping or some other crime, we’ll make sure your rights have been protected. That’s why we’re one of the best criminal defense attorneys in the Coastal Bend. If you want to find out how we can help you with your case, get in touch with us today!