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What Is Unlawful Restraint in Texas?

By Jose Ceja
Managing Attorney

If you have ever blocked someone from leaving a room or taken their keys because you wanted them to stay and finish a discussion, you may be surprised to learn that you could be charged with a crime in Texas for your actions. The crime, unlawful restraint, occurs when one person restricts the movement of another person without consent, interfering with their freedom. 

However, in order to be guilty of unlawful restraint, the accused individual must commit such restraint knowingly and intentionally. In other words, something such as accidentally losing someone’s keys (which would in fact prevent them from leaving) is not unlawful restraint.

So what constitutes a lack of consent? A lack of consent is assumed if the accused has restricted the accuser’s movement through:

  • Intimidation
  • Force
  • Violence
  • Threats of force or violence
  • Deception 

It’s important to note that even if the accuser has given in to the force or intimidation, unlawful restraint could still have occurred. 

Penalties for Unlawful Restraint

The crime of unlawful restraint in Texas can have a wide range of penalties. These penalties depend upon the degree of the charges against you. Generally speaking, unlawful restraint is a Class A Misdemeanor, which can result in one year in jail and up to $4,000 in fines. 

However, unlawful restraint becomes a felony if it places the (alleged) victim at serious risk for bodily harm or if the victim was under the age of 17 at the time that the crime was committed. 

  • State jail felony can result in 180 days to two years in jail and up to $10,000 in fines; and
  • Third-degree felony can result in 2-10 years in jail and up to $10,000 in fines. 

Once some has suffered one of the above penalties for their felony conviction, the consequences are not complete. In fact, they are for life. Those found guilty of a felony offense in Texas may not vote and cannot carry a firearm, nor can they reside in a home with a firearm or weapon – even if another person legally owns it. 

Defenses to a Charge of Unlawful Restraint

While it can be extremely scary to be charged with a crime, it’s important to remember that just because you are charged with something does not mean that you are guilty of it. There are several defenses against a charge of unlawful restraint, such as:

  • The arrest made against you was unconstitutional (e.g. you weren’t informed of your rights)
  • There isn’t enough (or any) evidence to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt
  • There is a mistake of fact (you didn’t commit the crime)
  • You committed the actions but were legally permitted (affirmative defense)
    • The individual who was restrained was under the age of 14;
    • The accused is a relative of the minor;
    • The intent of the accused was to take lawful control of the minor; and
    • The accused did not use force, deception, or intimidation to restrain the minor. 

The Attorneys at Ceja Law Firm Help Those in Houston Who Have Been Charged with Unlawful Restrain

Any charge of unlawful restraint should be taken very seriously. That’s why it’s so important that you consult with a knowledgeable and experienced Texas criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. 

At Ceja Law Firm PLLC, we understand the serious nature of such a criminal charge and the impact that it can have on one’s life. That’s why we will work to help you obtain the best possible outcome. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today.

About the Author
Jose Ceja is the managing attorney of Ceja Law Firm. He has practiced law since 2007 and has devoted his career to the practice of criminal law. Mr. Ceja began his legal career as a felony drug prosecutor, where he prosecuted drug, gang, and violent offenses. Mr. Ceja has first or second chaired almost 100 trials, including murders, drug cases, DWIs, and assaults. In his career as a defense attorney, he has regularly obtained dismissals, not guilty verdicts, and grand jury “no bills” in a wide variety of cases.