Kidnapping: Texas Penal Code §20.03

Texas Criminal Law

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The Texas Kidnapping law gives police the right to arrest you if they believe you intentionally or knowingly abducted another person.

The Penal Code provides a separate Texas statute for Aggravated Kidnapping, requiring some additional circumstances. Federal law defines a separate Kidnapping crime as well. You can be prosecuted under either or both the Texas Kidnapping law and the Federal Kidnapping law.

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The Texas legislature codified this criminal offense in Texas Penal Code Section 20.03. The law was not updated in 2023. In fact, this law has not been amended since 1993.

The Penal Code classifies the Texas Kidnapping law under Title 5 “Offenses Against The Person,” Chapter 20 “Kidnapping, Unlawful Restraint, and Smuggling of Persons.” Learn more about the Texas offense of Kidnapping below.

What is the current Texas law about Kidnapping?

The current Texas law defines the offense of Kidnapping in Penal Code Section §20.03 as follows:[1]

(a) A person commits an offense if he intentionally or knowingly abducts another person.

Are there any affirmative defenses?

The Kidnapping law in the Penal Code provides an affirmative defense, applicable to parents:[2]

(b) It is an affirmative defense to prosecution under this section that:

(1) the abduction was not coupled with intent to use or to threaten to use deadly force;

(2) the actor was a relative of the person abducted; and

(3) the actor’s sole intent was to assume lawful control of the victim.

How can I be charged with a Kidnapping offense in Texas?

You can be charged with Kidnapping in Texas if the state’s attorneys believe that each of the elements of 20.03(a) as described in the section above have been met.

What is the statute of limitation for Kidnapping in Texas?

Kidnapping normally carries a five-year limitations period.[3] However, if the victim is younger than 17 years old at the time the offense is committed, the limitations period is twenty years from the 18th birthday of the victim.[4]

What is the penalty for a Texas Kidnapping offense?

A conviction for Kidnapping in Texas is punished as a Felony of the third degree,[5] with a maximum possible fine under Texas state law of up to $10,000 and prison time of two to ten years. Learn about the differences between grades of felonies and misdemeanors here.

Can you get probation for Kidnapping in Texas?

The Texas Code of Criminal Procedure allows both judges and juries to grant probation for Kidnapping, and judges are also allowed to accept deferred adjudication plea deals.[6]

Note, however, that judges may not grant community supervision after a conviction if (1) the defendant used or exhibited a deadly weapon during the commission of the felony or immediate flight thereafter and (2) the defendant used or exhibited the deadly weapon himself or was a party to the offense and knew that a deadly weapon would be used or exhibited.[7]

Do I have to register as a sex offender in Texas if guilty of Kidnapping?

Any Texas Kidnapping conviction or adjudication, including deferred adjudication, requires registration as a sex offender if the order in the hearing or the papers in the case contain an affirmative finding that the victim or intended victim was younger than 17 years old.[8]

What level of crime is Kidnapping in Texas?

The Penal Code classifies the punishment for Kidnapping as a third degree felony.

Learn more about the penalty range for this offense in the section above.


^1. Texas Penal Code §20.03. This law is current as of the 88th Legislature Regular Session.^2. Texas Penal Code §20.03(b)^3. Code of Criminal Procedure 12.01(4)(B)^4. Code of Criminal Procedure 12.01(5)(A)^5. Texas Penal Code §20.03(c)^6. See Chapter 42, Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, Art. 42A.054, Art. 42A.056, Art. 42A.102 .^7. Art. 42A.054(b), Texas Code of Criminal Procedure^8. Code of Criminal Procedure, Article 62.001(5)(E)

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