In Sugar Land, it is a crime for a parent, relative, or other loved one to take, hide, or keep a child from the other parent or person that has rights to the child. Most accusations of kidnapping a loved one are from the other parent of the child. This crime often happens during contentious custody battles when a family member attempts to take custody into their own hands. If you are accused of kidnapping a loved one, it is critical to reach out to a Sugar Land criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
What are the Texas Laws on Parental Kidnapping?
Texas has a specific statute titled “Interference with Child Custody” that addresses parental kidnapping and lays out the situations where it is illegal to take or keep your child. According to the statute, a person commits parental kidnapping if they take a child younger than 18 under any of the circumstances below:
1. Taking the child violates an existing child custody order (including a temporary order);
2. The individual has not been awarded custody of the child, is aware that a child custody suit has been filed, and takes the child out of the geographic area without permission and with the intent to deprive the court authority over the child; or
3. The individual takes or retains the child out of the United States without permission to deprive another party (typically the other parent) of access to the child or custody of the child.
If you are still married and there has never been a child custody order, taking your child away from home is not a crime.
What are the Penalties for Kidnapping a Loved One in Texas?
Kidnapping in Texas is a serious crime that can result in severe criminal penalties, including jail time and significant fines. If you are convicted, the penalties you will face depend on the unique circumstances of your case.
Interference with child custody is a state jail felony. It is punishable from 180 days up to two years in state jail and fines not to exceed $10,000. Kidnapping is a third-degree felony punishable by up to ten years in prisons and fines up to $10,000.
The court may increase the penalties under certain circumstances, including if a deadly weapon was used during the abduction, the child was held for ransom, or child abuse was involved. In these situations, you could face longer jail times and higher fines.
In addition to jail time and fines, there are collateral consequences when you are convicted of kidnapping a loved one. Not only will you have a felony on your criminal record, but if child custody is still an issue before the court, the judge will consider your conduct when making their determination.
What are Defenses to Parental Kidnapping in Sugar Land?
The Texas parental kidnapping statute lists possible defenses to the crime. If the parent had not been awarded custody and a child custody suit was filed, it is a defense that the individual returned the child to the geographic area of the court within three days of the commission of the offense.
Additionally, if the parent took the child out of the United States, it is a defense if:
• The taking or retention of the child was pursuant to a valid order for possession of or access to the child;
• The person’s retention of the child was only due to circumstances beyond their control, and the person promptly provided notice or made reasonable attempts to provide notice of those circumstances to the other parent entitled to possession or access to the child; or
• The individual was fleeing the commission or attempted commission of family violence against the child or person.
What Should You Do If You Are Accused of Kidnapping Your Child in Sugar Land?
If you have been accused of parental kidnapping, you should reach out to a qualified Sugar Land criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. They will inform you of your rights and provide you with an aggressive defense.
An attorney can also assist you in modifying a child custody agreement through the proper process. Your attorney can ensure that your petition is filed correctly and help work out arrangements of the custody order with the other parent or attorney.
Your Sugar Land Criminal Defense Attorney
Adam Capetillo is an experienced Sugar Land criminal defense attorney passionate about protecting the rights of his clients. If you were accused of a weapons offense or have questions about the recent gun law changes, we encourage you to call our office today at (346) 249-5544 to schedule a free consultation.