Exploitation of Vulnerable Adults
There are many different definitions for exploitation, and the defendant’s conduct has to fall into one of these definitions or else the charges must be dismissed. The prosecutor must prove that the defendant exploited an elderly person with deception, intimidation, or undue influence. Deception and intimidation are self-explanatory. Undue influence is defined as domination and influence amounting to force and coercion exercised by another person to such an extent that the person was prevented from exercising free judgment and choice. There are two classes of people protected in these laws, and despite the fact that 68 years of age is no longer that old, under the state law this age qualifies as elderly, and are protected under this criminal statute. Vulnerable adults who cannot care for themselves without assistance are also protected under the law.
If the deception, intimidation, or undue influence results in a loss for the victim of less than $500 then the charge will be a misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of 18 months in jail. Surprisingly, if the loss to the elderly victim is over $500 the charge becomes a felony and the maximum penalty increases ten times to 15 years in jail. In addition, the defendant may be charged with other related crime such as theft. The statute specifically allows this, and it is not double jeopardy to be charged with both these crimes for the same act. This law also includes a provision that the defendant is required to restore the property taken upon conviction, and if he or she fails to do so then he or she could be excluded from inheriting anything from the victim’s estate. This provision was designed specifically for thefts within the family or involving caretakers. There are a variety of defenses to this charge, and an experienced criminal defense lawyer can go over them in detail.