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Understanding the Penalties for Unlawful Restraint in Texas

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When you disagree with another person over a serious issue, it can be challenging to control your emotions. You want the other person to understand your point of view and comply with what you are saying.

However, you need to know at what point that you could cross the proverbial line between convincing the person to agree with you and acting unlawfully. You can avoid getting in trouble with the law and facing serious legal consequences by knowing how Texas defines and punishes unlawful restraint.

What is Unlawful Restraint in Texas?

Texas state law defines unlawful restraint as the act of purposely and knowingly restraining another person without that person’s consent and preventing them from leaving the premises. It does not matter for how long of a time that you restrain a person and stop them from coming and going freely. The entire offense might only last for a matter of minutes, and it can still be meet the legal criteria for you to be charged with unlawful restraint in Texas.

Moreover, unlawful restraint can involve restricting a person’s freedom to come and go through the use of: 

  • Threats
  • Violence
  • Intimidation
  • Force
  • Deception

In fact, if you use any means to prevent a person from leaving through any means that lacks their consent, your actions could meet the requirements to charged with unlawful restraint in Texas.

If you are charged with and convicted of this offense, you could face harsh penalties, notwithstanding possible jail or prison time. You also may have to pay expensive civil fines and have a felony conviction placed on your criminal record. You can avoid these potential punishments, however, by learning about common examples of unlawful restraint and what behaviors are deemed illegal in Texas.

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Examples of Unlawful Restraint

To help you understand what constitutes unlawful restraint, Texas provides numerous examples of behaviors that you want to avoid if or when you find yourself in a contentious situation with another person. The most common example of unlawful restraint involves physically holding down another person and stopping them from being able to leave the room or building. Under Texas law, you cannot physically restrain a person to prevent them from being able to leave at their own convenience and discretion.

Another common example of this offense involves taking away a person’s car keys or cell phone to impede their freedom to come and go. If, for example, you are in an argument with your spouse or romantic partner and want to keep them at home, you cannot legally take their car keys or phone away in a bid to stop them from leaving.

Another example that meets Texas’ legal definition of unlawful restraint involves slashing or letting the air out of a person’s tires. By law, you cannot damage a person’s tires on their car to keep them from leaving. If you commit this kind of damage to a person’s car, you not only can be charged with criminal property damage but also unlawful restraint.

Moreover, this legal definition can apply to more than just casual or romantic situations in which you may find yourself. It can also apply if you are an employer and try to keep any of your employees from leaving your business. If you use threats, intimidation, force or deception to keep an employee at work, you can be charged with and potentially found guilty of this crime and face harsh penalties under Texas state law.

How Does Texas Punish Unlawful Restraint?

Texas uses a variety of penalties to punish people who are found guilty of unlawful restraint. In fact, it utilizes three different levels of charges to determine what kinds of consequences people should face if they are convicted. The level of charge that you face is largely based on a number of different factors.

For example, Texas prosecutors take into consideration your prior criminal history to determine how you should be charged with unlawful restraint. They also consider the amount of damage that you inflicted on the victim and for how long that you unlawfully restrained them. They likewise consider the factors involved with the crime, such as what led to the disagreement or what other actions that you took, such as damaging property while restraining the individual.

The lowest level of charge that you could face is a Class A misdemeanor. A misdemeanor conviction of unlawful restraint in Texas can result in a jail term of up to one year and a fine of up to $4000.

However, if you are charged with and found guilty of a state felony of unlawful restraint, you could face between 180 days to two years in jail. You also may have to pay a fine of up to $10,000.

Texas prosecutors can also charge with a third degree felony for unlawful restraint. A third degree felony conviction can result in a prison term of two years to 10 years. It likewise can result in a fine of up to $10,000. 

In fact, you will be charged with a felony if your victim was a minor under the age of 17 at the time of the offense. You also will be charged with felony unlawful restraint if you put the victim at grave risk of bodily injury or harm.

Are you facing unlawful restraint charges? Attorney Brett Podolsky can help »

What to Do if You are Charged with Unlawful Restraint in Texas

If you are charged with this crime in Texas, you have the right to retain an experienced criminal defense lawyer to represent you. Your lawyer can defend you against these charges and help you avoid the worst penalties for unlawful restraint. 

Your attorney can first find out if enough evidence exists to convict you. If evidence points to your innocence or shows that prosecutors lack sufficient proof to convict you, your lawyer may work to get the charges against you lowered or dropped. 

Your lawyer can also make sure that your arrest was constitutionally sound and legal. If you were not read your rights, for example, or you were questioned without being advised that you can have counsel present, you may have grounds to have any evidence against you thrown out of court and your arrest vacated.

Finally, your lawyer may be able to use an affirmative defense to help you avoid being charged with and found guilty of unlawful restraint. This defense may be sufficient in defeating the case against you, mitigating the consequences of your alleged actions or raising a legal concern that is separate from those that are alleged in the charges against you.

Because of the potential punishments that you face, you need to hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer to represent and counsel you if you are charged in Texas with unlawful restraint. Brett A Podolsky help you defend yourself against the charges and avoid jail or prison time and expensive civil fines. 

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