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Federal Unlawful Restraint Charges

Although not considered as severe as kidnapping, federal unlawful restraint charges should still be taken seriously, as this offense is still considered a misdemeanor and is punishable by jail time. If you have been accused of unlawful restraint and have questions or concerns about your own defense, please contact a Miami federal crime lawyer who can assist you.

What Qualifies as Unlawful Restraint?

Under federal law, a person can be charged with and convicted of unlawful restraint if he or she knowingly:

  • Restrained another person unlawfully in circumstances where the victim was exposed to risk of serious bodily injury; or
  • Held another person in a condition of involuntary servitude.

Involuntary servitude is defined as compulsory service or labor against a person’s will. However, before a person can be convicted of subjecting someone to involuntary servitude prosecutors must provide evidence that the victim was held against his or her will by one of the following:

  • Actual force;
  • Threats of force; or
  • Threats of legal coercion.

Creating a climate of fear through the use or threat of force or the threat of legal coercion is enough to satisfy this requirement if the actions were sufficient to compel someone into service against his or her will. This means that a victim does not have to have been physically bound or confined for a defendant to be convicted of unlawful restraint. Instead, it is enough for a victim to believe that he or she cannot leave an area under his or her own power. However, if no actual force was used, but a victim was only threatened with such force, there must also be evidence that the victim had a reasonable fear of the threat. Finally, there is no minimum time requirement involved in charges of unlawful restraint, so even confining someone for a few moments can qualify as unlawful restraint.

Sentence Enhancements

Although unlawful restraint is charged as a misdemeanor at the federal level, a defendant’s penalties could be enhanced if any of the following situations apply:

  • A ransom demand was made;
  • A demand upon the government was made;
  • The victim sustained serious, permanent, or life-threatening ;
  • The defendant used a dangerous weapon;
  • The victim was unlawfully restrained for more than seven days;
  • The victim was sexually exploited;
  • The victim was a minor and in exchange for money was placed in the custody of a non-parent or guardian;
  • The victim was unlawfully restrained during the commission of or in connection with a different criminal offense;
  • The victim was unlawfully restrained when attempting to escape during the commission of another criminal offense;
  • Another offense was committed during the unlawful restraint; or
  • The victim was killed under circumstances that qualify as murder.

When one or more of these elements applies, a defendant could face felony charges and a decades-long prison sentence.

Call an Experienced Federal Crime Attorney Today for Legal Advice

Having the legal counsel of a competent attorney can make all the difference in the outcome of a case, especially in criminal matters. If you are facing unlawful restraint charges in Miami, please do not hesitate to contact dedicated federal crime lawyer Jeffrey S. Weiner, P.A. at 305-670-9919 for advice on your next course of action.

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