Understanding Unlawful Restraint Charges in Texas

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If you have ever had an argument with your spouse in which you barred him or her from leaving the room while you made your point or if you have ever attempted to stop someone from driving off while you finished an argument, you might be surprised to learn that these actions represent crimes in the State of Texas. The charge involved is unlawful restraint, and it is a serious matter with serious penalties, fines, and social stigma to prove it.

Unlawful Restraint Defined

In Texas, unlawful restraint relates to one person restricting the movements of someone else without that person’s consent. In order for such actions to be against the law, they must deprive the alleged victim of his or her liberty or freedom (to make his or her own choices). If any of the following apply, the necessary lack of consent is assumed to be present:

Those accused of unlawful restraint often turn to the other person’s consent as their defense, but these alleged conditions can help kick the legs out from such a defense.

There Is More to It than Just Lack of Consent

To be convicted of unlawful consent, the prosecution must be able to prove that you knowingly and intentionally restrained the person in question. For example, if you accidentally block someone else’s car due to your sloppy parking, this is not going to reach the standard necessary to slap you with an unlawful restraint charge. Accidentally losing someone else’s key is similarly insufficient for an unlawful restraint conviction. Incidents, however, that can rise to a charge of unlawful restraint include the following:

  • Someone who forces his or her spouse to remain isolated within their shared home

  • An employer who will not allow an employee to leave work (under threat of force)

  • Someone who grabs another person’s phone and keys to purposefully prevent him or her from leaving

  • Someone who forces someone else to remain at home (or anywhere else) to prevent the person from reporting a crime

  • Someone who slits someone else’s tires to prevent that person from leaving

Unlawful Restraint and the Attendant Penalties

The charges and associated penalties you face will depend upon the severity of the alleged incident of unlawful restraint involved, but the basics include:

  • For a Class A misdemeanor, you can face up to a year in jail and up to $4,000 in fines.

  • For a state jail felony, you can face from 180 days to 2 years in jail and up to $10,000 in fines.

  • For a third-degree felony, you can face from 2 to 10 years behind bars and up to $10,000 in fines.

Related: The Serious Consequences of a Texas Misdemeanor

Look to an Experienced Killeen Criminal Lawyer for the Legal Guidance You Need

Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard – proudly serving Killeen, Texas – is a focused criminal lawyer who cares about your case and who dedicates his practice to helping clients like you prevail with favorable case resolutions. For more information, please don’t hesitate to contact or call us at 254-501-4040 today.


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