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A person generally commits the criminal offense of kidnapping by using force or other means of instilling fear to steal, take, hold, detain, abduct, or arrest a person and take them to another location. A person of any age may be a victim of kidnapping.

And a person generally commits the criminal offense of aggravated kidnapping if the person (1) uses force, fear, or fraud upon a victim who is a child under 14 years of age; (2) accompanies the kidnapping with a demand for ransom; (3) causes the victim to suffer serious bodily injury or death; (4) kidnaps a person during a carjacking; (5) uses the victim as a shield or hostage; or (6) exhibits or uses a deadly weapon during the course of the kidnapping.

Kidnapping laws vary from state to state, including definitions and affirmative defenses, such as whether the person taken is related to the kidnapper. Some states have child abduction laws that apply to the abduction of children by parents or relatives when the child is not moved a significant distance (out of county or state). Kidnapping laws are generally located in a state’s statutes—often in the penal or criminal code.

In Texas, kidnapping is defined under the Texas Penal Code Section 20.03. A person commits this offense when they intentionally or knowingly abduct another person. 'Abduct' is further defined as restraining a person with the intent to prevent their liberation by either secreting or holding them in a place where they are not likely to be found, or by using or threatening to use deadly force. Aggravated kidnapping, as outlined in Section 20.04 of the Texas Penal Code, occurs when the kidnapping is accompanied by one of the following: the victim is under 14 years of age; the kidnapper intends to hold the victim for ransom or reward; the kidnapper inflicts bodily injury or sexually abuses the victim; the kidnapper uses the victim as a shield or hostage; the kidnapper exhibits or uses a deadly weapon during the kidnapping; or the kidnapper terrorizes the victim or a third person. Texas law also recognizes affirmative defenses to kidnapping, such as the claim that the abduction was not coupled with intent to use or threaten to use deadly force, or that the actor was a relative of the child and their intent was to assume lawful control of the child. Child abduction laws in Texas also address situations where a child is taken by a parent or relative, which can lead to charges such as interference with child custody under Section 25.03 of the Texas Penal Code if the action violates a custody agreement or court order.

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