OKLAHOMA DEFENSE LAWYER: CRIMES AGAINST THE ELDERLY
Certain populations are often considered to be more vulnerable than others: children, those with physical or mental disabilities, and the elderly. When someone from one of these groups is believed to be the victim of a crime, the judgment is often swift against a person accused of abusing, manipulating, or exploiting someone who may not be able to fight back or to protect himself or herself against unscrupulous individuals.
In Oklahoma, there are laws against things like assault, sexual assault, and theft. The penalties for these crimes vary depending on the perceived severity of the offense. However, state legislators have taken it even further in creating separate laws that prohibit these acts against vulnerable populations. Whereas a typical simple assault is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 60 days in jail, physical abuse of an elderly person by a caretaker carries much more stringent penalties.
In fact, Oklahoma law has the Elderly and Incapacitated Victim’s Protection Program, found in 22 O.S. §§ 991a-13 through 991a-27. This program’s designated purpose is “to provide enhanced sentencing for persons committing certain offenses against elderly or incapacitated persons” (§ 991a-14).
With state laws specifically geared at prohibiting and punishing crimes against the elderly, what may seem a minor violation in other circumstances becomes a serious offense when it targets, harms, or exploits an adult aged 62 or older.
Abuse, Neglect, or Financial Exploitation by Caretaker
Among the most commonly prosecuted people accused of abusing the elderly are their caretakers. In these cases, defendants may be paid professionals such as nursing home employees, home health nurses, and adult sitters, but frequently, these cases involve family members—especially adult children who now find themselves to be the caregivers for their elderly and ailing parents. Sometimes, the frustration of this role-reversal and the difficulties of caring for someone who may be angry, combative, forgetful, or resentful can become too much for a caregiver with little support.
If a caretaker feels abused or exploited, it can lead him or her to act in similar ways. A caretaker’s own impulsive act or rash decision may lead to criminal charges, as can a wrongful allegation of abuse through the misunderstanding of well-intentioned others or by a confused or spiteful recipient of care.
Oklahoma law prohibits abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation by a caregiver in 21 O.S. § 843.1. Physical abuse, neglect, and financial neglect or financial exploitation by a caregiver are all felonies punishable by a maximum of 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. If the crime involves sexual abuse by a caretaker, the maximum penalty is 15 years in prison. Additionally, anyone convicted of these crimes is subject to the provisions of the Elderly and Incapacitated Victim’s Protection Program, which enhances the penalties ascribed under § 843.1.
Exploitation of Elderly Persons or Disabled Adults
Another Oklahoma law against crimes against the elderly is found in 21 O.S. § 843.4, which involves financial exploitation of the elderly or disabled adults.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics and the National Center on Elder Abuse report that the most frequently reported crime against the elderly is neglect (58.5%), followed distantly by physical abuse (15.7%). Financial exploitation is the third most common type of elder abuse, coming in only slightly behind physical abuse at 12.3% of cases reported.
State law defines financial exploitation of an elderly person or disabled adult as follows:
- Using deception or intimidation to gain access to an elderly person or disabled adult’s money or property for personal use or for the benefit of someone other than the owner by someone who is in a position of trust or who has a business relationship with the elderly person or disabled adult.
- Obtaining or using, or attempting or conspiring to use or obtain an elderly person’s or disabled adult’s money or property by someone who knows or should reasonably know that the elderly or disabled person lacks the capacity to consent to its use in such a manner.
Financial exploitation of the elderly is a felony. The punishment for the crime depends upon the value of money or property involved in the exploitation:
- Less than $100,000 – up to 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000
- $100,000 or more – up to 15 years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000
If you are accused of exploiting an elderly person, defined as someone aged 62 or older, for your own financial gain, contact Coventon Criminal Defense for a free consultation regarding your case.
Elderly and Incapacitated Victim’s Protection Program
While Oklahoma has the laws mentioned above to prohibit and punish specific crimes against the elderly, the Elderly and Incapacitated Victim’s Protection Program serves as a catch-all for enhanced penalties for offenses against the elderly. If the following crimes are committed against an adult aged 62 or older or an “incapacitated person,” the defendant will face more serious penalties than if the same offense was committed against an able-bodied person under the age of 62 (22 O.S. § 991a-16):
- Assault, battery, or assault and battery with a dangerous weapon;
- Aggravated assault and battery;
- Burglary in the second degree;
- Use of a firearm or offensive weapon to commit or attempt to commit a felony, or pointing a firearm;
- Grand larceny;
- Extortion, or obtaining a signature by extortion;
- Fraud, or obtaining or attempting to obtain property by trick or deception;
- Embezzlement; or
- Caretaker abuse, neglect or exploitation.
Enhanced penalties under this program include a mandatory minimum period of incarceration, restitution (plus 12% interest), property seizure, community service, and “a fine or any other penalty otherwise provided by law.”
Repeat offenses against the elderly are subject to increased prison terms—up to 20 years in prison for a third offense.
Oklahoma Elder Crime Defense
Coventon Criminal Defense provides a free, confidential consultation to Oklahomans accused of financial exploitation or other alleged crimes against the elderly. To learn more or to schedule your risk-free case review, call (405) 417-3842.