Is Kidnapping A Federal Crime?


Kidnapping charges are very serious, especially when specific circumstances, described in more detail below, make kidnapping a federal crime. Federal convictions often yield longer prison time and steeper fines for defendants. Beyond prison time and fines, kidnapping convictions are felony convictions, which may lead to lifelong consequences and restrictions on your rights and freedom.

If you have been charged with kidnapping, you need an experienced attorney who will aggressively defend your case. Attorneys at Vinas & Graham, PLLC are skilled criminal defense attorneys who represent defendants charged with kidnapping in federal court or Texas state court. We know that the prospect of facing kidnapping charges is frightening, but our attorneys will fight for your rights and the best possible outcome in your case.

Kidnapping As A Federal Crime

As mentioned above, specific facts can make kidnapping a federal crime. Under the scenarios described below, defendants will likely be facing federal kidnapping charges.

  • The victim is taken to another state or foreign country.
  • The victim is taken in the maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States.
  • The victim is taken in the aircraft jurisdiction of the United States.
  • The victim is a foreign official, internationally protected person, or an official guest.
  • The victim is a federal officer.
  • The victim is a child under 16 taken by his or her parent to a foreign country.

Under federal kidnapping laws, sentencing levels are increased when an adult kidnaps a child under the age of 18 and is not related to the child. As mentioned above, punishment is usually steeper for federal crimes, and federal sentencing guidelines limit sentencing options for defendants.

Kidnapping As A State Crime

In general, a kidnapping that involves family matters will be charged in Texas state court, unless the child is taken to a foreign country. Under Texas law, kidnapping is a felony crime if a person intentionally or knowingly abducts another person. The crime is a 3rd-degree felony unless kidnapping charges are elevated to aggravated kidnapping charges because the defendant abducted the victim with any of the following intents:

  • To hold the victim for ransom or reward.
  • To hold the victim hostage or as a shield.
  • To commit a felony or to flee after committing a felony.
  • To inflict bodily injury or sexual abuse.
  • To terrorize the victim or someone else.
  • To interfere with a political or governmental function.

Kidnapping consequences are elevated when a defendant uses a deadly weapon to kidnap the victim. Aggravated kidnapping is a felony of the 1st-degree unless a defendant can prove that he or she released the victim to a safe place. In that case, the conviction may be reduced to a felony of the 2nd-degree.

Consequences For A Kidnapping Conviction

Punishments for kidnapping convictions vary depending on the level of the felony conviction and whether you are convicted in federal or state court. Defendants can be sentenced to as little as two years under some circumstances in state court and up to life in prison in other circumstances. Federal kidnapping convictions can lead to prison sentences of 20 years up to life in prison.

Kidnapping Defenses

Kidnapping charges do not have to lead to convictions if you have a good defense. For example, a defendant may avoid conviction if he or she did not intentionally or knowingly abduct the victim. A defendant may also avoid a kidnapping conviction if he or she is the parent of the alleged victim who intended to assume lawful control of his or her child.

The Best Possible Outcome In Your Case

A skilled and aggressive criminal defense attorney will help you achieve the best possible outcome in your case. Depending on your case facts, this may mean that you are found not guilty at trial, or your charges are reduced or dismissed entirely. Prosecutors typically prefer to avoid the time, expense, and uncertainty of trial. Your criminal defense attorney may be able to negotiate with prosecutors to secure a favorable plea agreement that avoids a trial and reduces your charges.

Kidnapping Defense Attorney

We understand that kidnapping charges are not always what they seem. Prosecutors frequently overcharge defendants to scare them into pleading guilty to a lesser crime. It is important not to speak with prosecutors or law enforcement officers without an attorney representing your interests.

If you have been charged with kidnapping or another crime, a kidnapping defense attorney at Vinas & Graham, PLLC, can help protect and defend your rights and your freedom. Contact our office at 713-229-9992 or submit an online form, and we will be in touch with you. Follow us on Facebook for more information about our law firm and the types of cases that we handle.