False Imprisonment

Unlawful restraint or “false imprisonment” is a serious charge under Texas law. Confining another person without their consent can lead to criminal charges. False imprisonment can result in severe legal penalties including expensive fines, possible incarceration, and a criminal record.

A conviction for unlawful restraint can be life-changing. The prosecution will not rest and may penalize you to the fullest extent to the law. Do not face this legal situation alone. If you or someone you know has been charged with false imprisonment, it’s vital that you seek trusted legal representation. 

Brownsville Attorney for Unlawful Restraint in Texas

Restraining a person unlawfully can land you with serious criminal charges. Any person who has been charged with false imprisonment should seek an experienced criminal defense attorney. A skilled attorney can collect evidence, file motions, advocate for your case, and help you mount a sturdy defense. 

Attorney Johnathan Gracia is experienced in Texas criminal courts. He understands that the court system can be stressful while juggling criminal allegations. With his extensive knowledge and resources, Johnathan Gracia will formulate a strong defense for you. Call today at (956) 504-2211 to schedule a free consultation. 

The Gracia Law Firm defends those accused of violent crimes in the greater Cameron County area including Harlingen, La Feria, Palm Valley, Port Isabel, and Brownville. 

Overview of False Imprisonment in Texas 


Texas Penalties for False Imprisonment

It’s illegal to confine a person without consent in the state of Texas. Texas Penal Code § 20.02 states a person is committing the offense of false imprisonment if he or she restrains another person. If found guilty, the alleged offender may face a class A misdemeanor.  

The following are the penalties for a class A misdemeanor:

  • Up to 12 months in county jail; and
  • A possible fine of up to $4,000. 

If the alleged offender restrains a person younger than 17 years old, the offense is a state jail felony. The maximum legal consequences of a state jail felony include:

  • Up to 24 months in jail; and
  • Possible fine of up to $10,000.

A person charged with unlawful restraint may have their penalties enhanced to a third-degree felony if any of the following occurs: 

  • He or she acted recklessly and therefore exposed the victim to a substantial risk of serious bodily injury;
  • The alleged offender knowingly restrains a public servant; or
  • The alleged offender restrains another person while in custody.

The maximum legal ramifications for a third-degree felony include:

  • Up to 10 years in prison; and
  • A possible fine of up to $10,000.

If the victim restrained was a peace officer or judge, then the alleged offender may face a second-degree felony. The maximum penalties for a second-degree felony include:

  • Up to 20 years in prison; and
  • A possible fine of up to $10,000. 

Defenses for False Imprisonment in Texas

Unlawful restraint charges can be tricky in Texas criminal courts. The jury may tend to side on the victim, especially if testimony is the main piece of evidence. However, an experienced criminal defense attorney can assess your case and uncover any available legal options for you. 

The following are some affirmative defenses for those charged with false imprisonment under Texas Penal Code § 20.02. 

It’s an affirmative defense to the prosecution if:

  • The alleged offender restrained a child younger than the age of 14;
  • The alleged offender is a relative of the minor; and
  • The alleged offender’s only intent was to assume lawful control of the child.

Additionally, it’s an affirmative defense to the prosecution if:

  • The alleged offender restrained a minor who is 14 years old or older, but younger than 17 years old;
  • The alleged offender did not use force, deception, or intimidation to restrain the child; and
  • The alleged offender is not more than three years older than the person confined. 

Lastly, it is an affirmative defense if the alleged offender was an officer who was moving or detaining another in a lawful manner.


Kidnapping in Cameron County, Texas

A common charge in conjunction with unlawful restraint is kidnapping. Texas Penal Code § 20.03 states it’s illegal to intentionally or knowingly abduct another person. A person convicted for kidnapping may face a third-degree felony.

The following are the penalties for a third-degree felony. 

  • Up to 10 years in prison; and
  • A possible fine of up to $10,000. 

Statute of Limitations for False Imprisonment

County and district attorneys only have a certain amount of time to file criminal charges against a person. This deadline is referred to as a statute of limitations. A statute of limitations begins on the day the crime is committed, and if charges are not successfully filed by the due date the crime can no longer be prosecuted.

In Texas, the statute of limitations for a crime is determined by the severity of the crime. A standard unlawful restraint conviction without any aggravating factors would have a statute of limitations of two years. This is because the statute of limitations for misdemeanors is two years under Texas law. If the false imprisonment charges have additional aggravating factors making it a felony, the statute of limitations will be three years.


Additional Resources

Texas False Imprisonment Laws – Visit the official website for the Texas Penal Code, and find more information surrounding unlawful restraint and other related offenses. Learn more about kidnapping, aggravated kidnapping, and smuggling of persons in Texas. 

False Imprisonment Overview – Visit the official website for Cornell Law School and find more information surrounding false imprisonment in Texas. Learn more about prima facie, threat of false imprisonment, invalid use of legal authority, and other related logistics. 


False Imprisonment Attorney in Cameron County, Texas

If you or someone you know has been charged with restraining someone unlawfully, it’s essential that you seek trusted legal representation. Attorney Johnathan Gracia has handled numerous false imprisonment cases and is experienced in the Texas justice system.

Attorney Johnathan Gracia understands the complexities of Texas laws and legislation. He is current with all Texas criminal offenses and possible legal defenses. With his years of knowledge, Johnathan Gracia will formulate a strong defense for your charges. Stay ahead of your case today and call attorney Johnathan Gracia at (956) 504-2211.

The Gracia Law Firm represents those accused of unlawful restraint throughout the greater Cameron County area including nearby counties such as Hidalgo County and Willacy County.

Call us now at (956) 504-2211 and schedule a free consultation today.


This article was last updated on November 5, 2018.