Fort Worth Federal Kidnapping Lawyer

What is Kidnapping?

Kidnapping generally refers to taking or transporting someone against their will. If the transportation crossed state lines, the crime can be prosecuted federally.

The Federal Kidnapping Act (also known as the Lindbergh Law) is codified at 18 USC 1201.

Here’s a breakdown of the federal kidnapping law compared to Texas state kidnapping law and insights into why a case might be prosecuted federally instead of at the state level.

Federal Kidnapping Law

Under Title 18, U.S. Code, Section 1201, federal kidnapping law makes it illegal to unlawfully seize, confine, inveigle, decoy, kidnap, abduct, or carry away and hold for ransom or reward or otherwise any person, when:

  • The kidnapping crosses state or international borders, or
  • The victim is a federal official, or an international protected person, or
  • The kidnapping occurs within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States.

Penalties under federal law can be severe, including life imprisonment, especially if the kidnapping involves harm or if the victim is not returned safely.

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Texas Kidnapping Law

In Texas, kidnapping is defined under Texas Penal Code, Section 20.03. It occurs when a person intentionally or knowingly abducts another person. To “abduct” means to restrain a person with intent to prevent his liberation by:

  • Secreting or holding him in a place where he is not likely to be found, or
  • Using or threatening to use deadly force.

Penalties in Texas can range from a third-degree felony to a first-degree felony, depending on the circumstances, such as if the victim was released in a safe place, the intent of the abductor, or if any injuries occurred.

Differences Between Federal and Texas Kidnapping Laws

  • Jurisdiction: Federal law primarily covers kidnappings that involve crossing state or international boundaries or affecting federal officials, which inherently makes the crime a matter of federal interest.
  • Scope and Elements: Texas law focuses on the act of abduction with intent and does not require crossing state lines or involve federal officials.
  • Legal Definitions: The specifics of what constitutes “abduction” can differ slightly, with federal law possibly encompassing a broader range of activities related to moving or holding the victim.

Reasons for Federal Prosecution

A kidnapping case might be prosecuted federally instead of at the state level for several reasons:

  • Interstate Nature: If the kidnapping crosses state lines, it becomes a federal crime due to the jurisdiction over interstate criminal activity.
  • International Aspect: If the kidnapping involves taking the victim to or from another country.
  • High Profile Victims: If the victim is a federal official, a foreign dignitary, or otherwise protected by federal statutes.
  • Request by State Authorities: Sometimes, state authorities may lack the resources to effectively prosecute a significant kidnapping case and thus request federal assistance.
  • Severity and Public Interest: Federal prosecution might be sought when the crime is particularly egregious or has garnered significant public attention, warranting a federal response for broader legal and investigative resources.

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Kidnapping Can Be Prosecuted Federally and in Texas Simultaneously

A person can be prosecuted both federally and in Texas for the same offense under certain circumstances. This is possible due to the legal principle known as “dual sovereignty doctrine.” This doctrine allows different levels of government (federal and state) to prosecute an individual under their respective laws, even if the charges stem from the same conduct.

Dual Sovereignty Doctrine

The dual sovereignty doctrine is based on the concept that the federal government and each state are separate sovereigns. Each has its own set of laws, and violating the same act can infringe upon laws at both levels. For example, drug trafficking that violates state laws can also violate federal laws if it involves crossing state lines or large quantities.

Key Points:

  • Separate Jurisdictions: Because the state government and federal government operate under different legal systems and jurisdictions, they can each prosecute an individual without violating the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment, which prevents someone from being tried twice for the same offense within the same jurisdiction.
  • Simultaneous or Consecutive Prosecutions: Prosecutions may occur simultaneously or consecutively. It’s not uncommon for federal charges to be laid after state proceedings have concluded, or vice versa.
  • Strategic Prosecutions: Sometimes, both federal and state prosecutors coordinate their efforts, particularly in cases involving serious crimes, to ensure comprehensive justice and the application of the most severe penalties available under different legal frameworks.

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Examples of Dual Prosecution:

  • Drug Crimes: If a crime involves manufacturing, distribution, or trafficking of controlled substances that cross state lines, it could be prosecuted under Texas state law for possession and distribution while also being subject to federal prosecution for trafficking across state lines.
  • Kidnapping: If a kidnapping starts in Texas and crosses into another state, it could be prosecuted under Texas state law and also under federal law for interstate kidnapping.
  • Firearms Offenses: Violations such as possessing a firearm as a convicted felon could be prosecuted both by Texas for breaking state firearms laws and by the federal government for violations of federal firearms statutes.

Excerpt of 18 USC 1201

§ 1201. Kidnapping

(a) Whoever unlawfully seizes, confines, inveigles, decoys, kidnaps, abducts, or carries away and holds for ransom or reward or otherwise any person, except in the case of a minor by the parent thereof, when— (1) the person is willfully transported in interstate or foreign commerce, regardless of whether the person was alive when transported across a State boundary, or the offender travels in interstate or foreign commerce or uses the mail or any means, facility, or instrumentality of interstate or foreign commerce in committing or in furtherance of the commission of the offense; (2) any such act against the person is done within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States; (3) any such act against the person is done within the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States as defined in section 46501 of title 49; (4) the person is a foreign official, an internationally protected person, or an official guest as those terms are defined in section 1116 (b) of this title; or (5) the person is among those officers and employees described in section 1114 of this title and any such act against the person is done while the person is engaged in, or on account of, the performance of official duties, shall be punished by imprisonment for any term of years or for life and, if the death of any person results, shall be punished by death or life imprisonment.

(b) With respect to subsection (a)(1), above, the failure to release the victim within twenty-four hours after he shall have been unlawfully seized, confined, inveigled, decoyed, kidnapped, abducted, or carried away shall create a rebuttable presumption that such person has been transported in interstate or foreign commerce. Notwithstanding the preceding sentence, the fact that the presumption under this section has not yet taken effect does not preclude a Federal investigation of a possible violation of this section before the 24-hour period has ended.

(c) If two or more persons conspire to violate this section and one or more of such persons do any overt act to effect the object of the conspiracy, each shall be punished by imprisonment for any term of years or for life.

(d) Whoever attempts to violate subsection (a) shall be punished by imprisonment for not more than twenty years.

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Few attorneys handle these cases, and fewer still are former federal prosecutors who are now ready to stand by your side. Contact us at (817) 203-2220 or reach out online.

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