In today’s world, there are more runaways and homeless youth than ever before. Out of the goodness of their hearts, many individuals try to help or assist these young people by giving them a temporary place to stay or by giving them money and other necessary items.
However, at a later time, many individuals learn that the young person they have assisted is actually a runaway and worry that they may be charged with kidnapping. If you have serious questions about actions that you have taken to help an individual that you felt was in need, you may need to consult with an attorney.
What is Kidnapping in Texas?
According to Texas law, kidnapping is a third-degree felony. An individual is guilty of kidnapping when they abduct another individual. The offender must have used premeditation and knew that their actions would result in the victim being kidnapped.
In addition, the law further states that kidnapping involves restraining the victim in order to prevent them the freedom to do as they wish. For the abduction to be considered criminal in nature, the victim must be held in a place they most likely would not be found, or they were threatened with the use of deadly force.
How is Harboring a Runaway Child Different Than Kidnapping?
The act of harboring a runaway child differs from that of kidnapping in that there was no physical force or threat used in order to make the individual comply with your wishes. Texas law instructs that harboring a runaway child is the act of knowingly concealing or sheltering them and showing no concern for their status as a runaway.
Even though this is not considered to be kidnapping as defined under the law, which does not mean that this is not a crime. If you are found to be in violation of the law, you could be charged with a Class A misdemeanor. Penalties include up to one year in prison and/or a fine of up to $4,000.
Are There Any Defenses For Harboring a Runaway Child?
Harboring a runaway child is a profoundly serious offense and could cause you to face time in prison or a significant fine; however, there are a few possible defenses that you may be able to use if charged with this crime, including:
- You are related to the child either by blood or marriage
- You notified the parents of the runaway within 24 hours of learning that the child was a runaway
- You notified the place or institution where the child lived and escaped from within 24 hours of learning their status
- You notified law enforcement within the 24-hour time period
Do I Need a Criminal Defense Attorney to Help Me With This Situation?
Even if you have not been charged with a crime in relation to harboring a child that was a runaway, it would be in your best interests to consult with a qualified attorney. Criminal charges that involve underage children can be extremely complex and impossible to deal with on your own.
If you have helped a runaway and are uncertain as to how you should proceed, contact our law office by calling (979) 596-4088 and ask to schedule a free consultation immediately.