Unlawful Restraint Law in Texas

Unlawful restraint comes up a lot in cases of domestic violence. When couples argue and emotions run high, one partner might try to stop the other from leaving, making the conflict even more intense.

Understanding unlawful restraint can be tricky. Most people imagine it involves physically tying someone up or locking them away. However, in Texas, you could be accused of unlawful restraint just for blocking someone from leaving a room or trapping them with a car.

Let’s take a look at broad terms on unlawful restraint law in Texas, covering various actions that mess with someone’s freedom.

Understanding Unlawful Restraint

Unlawful Restraint, as per the Texas Penal Code § 20.02, occurs when an individual intentionally or knowingly restrains another person’s movements without consent, employing deadly force, intimidation, or deception.

Key elements of the offense include:

  • Intent: The person accused of unlawful restraint must have the intention to restrict a person’s movement.
  • Knowledge: The accused must know that their actions will result in the limitation of the victim’s freedom of movement.
  • Lack of Consent: Assume lawful control even when the victim does not provide consent for their movements to be restricted.

What does it mean to “restrain” someone?

When we say someone is restrained, it means their freedom to move around is purposely limited. This could happen in different ways, like using physical force, making threats, or tricking them.

It is important to understand that the term “restrain” encompasses various actions, such as physically holding someone. Additionally, it includes using threats to coerce compliance or employing deception to limit their movements. Also, consent is a critical factor, and any act of restraint must be without the freely given permission of the person being restrained.

Unlawful Restraint vs. Kidnapping

People often mix up “kidnapping” and “unlawful restraint,” but they’re actually two different crimes. Both involve keeping someone against their will, but there are key differences.

Unlawful Restraint:

  • This happens when someone purposefully limits another person’s movements without their agreement.
  • It involves holding someone back or deliberately preventing them from moving.
  • It’s a serious thing, but not as severe as kidnapping.


  • Kidnapping is considered a more severe offense. It’s when someone purposefully takes another person away, holding them against their will.
  • People might kidnap for ransom, to use the person as a shield, to do a serious crime, hurt them, abuse them, or scare them or others.
  • Kidnapping is a big deal with more severe consequences.

So, even though both involve keeping someone against their will, kidnapping is a bigger offence than unlawful restraint.

Degrees of Offense

Unlawful Restraint is generally a Class A misdemeanor, but the severity can escalate based on certain factors.

If the victim is exposed to substantial risk of serious bodily injury or the actor controls the child younger than 14 years of age, the offense may be elevated to a State Jail Felony.

If the victim is a public servant or a family member, a child younger than 14 years of age, or if a deadly weapon is used during the commission of the offense, the charges can escalate to a Third-degree Felony.

Possible Defenses for Unlawful Restraint in Texas

Consent Defense:
– Consent means the restrained person agreed willingly, either through words or actions.
– Proof can include texts, emails, or witnesses confirming the person agreed voluntarily.

Lack of Intent Defense:
– Lack of intent means the accused didn’t mean to restrain the person.
– Evidence may show the actions were accidental or misunderstood.

– Self-defense means the accused believed restraining was necessary for protection.
– Evidence must prove a genuine fear of harm, possibly showing threats or past violence by the person restrained.

Arrested? Don’t Plea, Call Me!

If you or your love ones is facing charges with unlawful restraint, hiring a skilled criminal defense attorney is not just an option but a necessity. Texas Criminal Defense Group can craft a defense around consent, lack of intent, or self-defense, navigating the complexities for a fair and just resolution. When dealing with legal issues, seeking the guidance of a criminal defense lawyer is crucial to advocate for your rights, establish innocence, and secure the best outcome.