Texas Penal Code Section 20.04(D) Example Case

In Brown v. State, 98 S.W.3d 180 (Tex. Crim. App. 2003), the appellant stabbed his victim in the neck with a knife and kidnapped her. Brown, 98 S.W.3d at 182. The seriously injured victim later persuaded Brown to release her at a hospital by promising him that she would "tell them that she did it." After a jury convicted Brown of aggravated kidnapping, he requested that the jury sentence him as a second-degree felon because he voluntarily released his victim in a safe place. The trial court, agreeing with the State, concluded Brown had not voluntarily released his victim because he had been tricked or manipulated into bringing her to the hospital. Id. The Tyler Court of Appeals agreed, holding that, in order for the action to qualify as a voluntary release, the action must be the spontaneous product of the actor's free will, uninfluenced by another's persuasion, coercion, or solicitation. Id. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals disagreed with the Tyler court, rejecting a broad definition and, instead, applying a narrow definition of "voluntary" when determining the application of Tex. Penal Code Section 20.04(d). Id. at 188. In order for the action to be voluntary, there must be no elements of escape by the victim or rescue by the police or by others. Id. (citing to Comments to Model Penal Code, Section 212.1, at pages 233-34). The court concluded such a definition was consistent with the legislative purpose of Section 20.04(d) to encourage kidnappers to release their victims. Id. Therefore, the Tyler court erroneously applied a broad definition. Id. On remand, the Tyler court concluded that, based on the narrow definition of "voluntary release," Brown should have been subject to the lesser sentence under Section 20.04(d), although he may have been tricked into bringing his victim to the hospital. The Tyler court reversed and remanded the case for a new punishment hearing. Brown v. State, 109 S.W.3d 550, 551 (Tex. App.--Tyler 2003, no pet.).