Menu

By Benson Varghese

Published on: November 16th, 2013 at 9:17 AM
Last Updated: September 15th, 2020 at 9:49 AM

What is Aggravated Kidnapping?

Aggravated kidnapping in Fort Worth is a first-degree felony that occurs when someone abducts a person against his or her will with the intent of committing certain acts, such as 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 a Texas prison along with a fine of up to $10,000.

What Constitutes Kidnapping in Texas?

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 Texas 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?

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.

Is Aggravated Kidnapping a 3G Offense?

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

When is Kidnapping 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.

Aggravated Kidnapping in the News

A high profile federal kidnapping case dominated headlines in 2019 in Fort Worth after 8-year-old Salem Sabatka was abducted from her mother’s side by in broad daylight. Good samaritans from a local church were able to track down the vehicle used in the kidnapping, which ultimately led to Salem being rescued. The kidnapper, Michael Webb, 51, was arrested and charged federally with aggravated kidnapping. He was later sentenced to life in federal prison.

When Is Aggravated Kidnapping Prosecuted Federally?

The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act was enacted in July 2006. It expanded federal jurisdiction to encompass almost every 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 18) carries a minimum sentence of 20 years in federal prison. The Federal Kidnapping Act (also known as the Lindbergh Law) is codified at 18 USC 1201.

What is Smuggling of a Person?

Related to kidnapping is the offense of Smuggling a Person. Texas 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.

Get Legal Help Defending Against Aggravated Kidnapping Charges in Fort Worth

If you or a loved one has been charged with kidnapping or aggravated kidnapping in Fort Worth, it’s imperative to contact a skilled defense attorney as soon as possible. Call us today for a free consultation.