Can I Be Charged with Kidnapping for Helping a Runaway?

According to Missed Opportunities: Youth Homelessness in America, during 2016 and 2017, about 700,000 youths between the 13 and 17 years of age experienced some form of homelessness. Various factors lead to child and adolescent homelessness, such as being kicked out or running away from an unfavorable home life. Needing a place to stay, the youths might turn to a shelter or friends with an open couch to sleep on for a night.

If you open your home to a run away in need, you could face criminal charges. You might not be prosecuted for kidnapping, but you could be for harboring a runaway child.

What Is Kidnapping?

Under Texas Penal Code 20.03, a person commits kidnapping when they abduct another individual. To violate the law, the person must have known that or meant for their actions to result in someone else being taken.

The law further defines abducting as restraining a person to prevent their freedom from doing every day activities. For the act to be criminal, the restraint must be accompanied by holding the individual somewhere they most likely won’t be found, or using or threatening to use deadly force. Kidnapping is a third-degree felony.

If a runaway child or adolescent knocks at your door or approaches you on the street, asking for help because they have nowhere else to go, and you don’t use force to compel them to go with you, your actions don’t meet the legal definition for kidnapping.

What Is Harboring a Runaway Child?

Although helping a homeless youth won’t result in a felony kidnapping charge, that doesn’t mean that the act is legal. If you take in a runaway kid who doesn’t have permission from their parent to be absent from the home, you could be charged with harboring a runaway child.

Texas Penal Code 25.06, defines harboring a runaway child as knowingly concealing or sheltering a minor and showing indifference to their status.

That means you didn’t act in a reasonable way to find out if the kid:

  • Was under 18 years of age; and
  • Had escaped the custody of a peace officer, probation officer, the Texas Youth Council, or a detention facility; or
  • Had voluntarily left home without permission from their parent

If you violate this law, you could be charged with a Class A misdemeanor. A conviction carries with it up to 1 year in prison and/or up to $4,000 in fines.

There are various defenses that can be raised for this charge, such as you:

  • Are related, within the second degree, to the child by blood or marriage; or
  • Notified the place where the child escaped from, law enforcement, or the parents within 24 hours of learning that the child was a runaway

Get the Legal Help You Need from The Law Office of Shane Phelps, P.C.

Have you been charged with a criminal offense? Our attorneys can provide aggressive defense for the accusations you might be facing. We have decades of combined experience and an in-depth understanding of the law. We will work hard toward a favorable outcome in your case.

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