Today's adults are frequently known as the "sandwich generation." This means that, unlike their parents and grandparents, middle-aged people today are caretakers to both their children and their aging parents, "sandwiched" between the needs of the very young and the very old, and forced to sacrifice their own needs. Unfortunately, the demands placed on caregivers can take a tremendous toll, and without appropriate support, frustration can lead to rage and incidents of domestic violence and elder abuse.
Assault, abuse, and exploitation of the elderly is not okay. However, you may find yourself the victim of a false allegation by an elderly parent suffering from dementia. You may have let your frustration with your challenging situation get the better of you and committed a terrible mistake by hurting someone. Regardless of the circumstances leading to your criminal charge, there are options for your defense that can prove your innocence or make the most of a difficult situation.
Oklahoma Elder Abuse Laws
Because senior citizens, like children, are considered a vulnerable population, state law provides specific statutes to enforce their protection and penalize anyone who abuses them.
- Abuse, Neglect, or Financial Exploitation by Caretaker (21 O.S. § 843.1)
- Elderly and Incapacitated Victim's Protection Program (22 O.S. § 991a)
- Protective Services for the Elderly and for Incapacitated Adults Act (43A O.S. § 10-103 through 10-109)
These laws provide both criminal and civil penalties for those convicted of the abuse or exploitation of an elderly or incapacitated person. Such abuse may occur in a private residence or in a nursing home or skilled nursing facility, and state law doles out heavy punishment to those convicted of harming someone entrusted to one's care.
Caretaker Abuse or Exploitation
The Oklahoma criminal code describes caretaker abuse in beginning in 21 O.S. § 843.1 and continuing through § 843.4.
Committing abuse, neglect, financial neglect, sexual abuse, or exploitation of a person entrusted to one's care is a felony punishable by a maximum of 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. If the offense is sexual abuse by a caretaker, the maximum penalty is 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine followed by sex offender registration. A person convicted of violating the caretaker abuse statute is subject to the provisions of the Elderly and Incapacitated Victim's Protection Act.
State law prohibits not only physical abuse, sexual abuse, and financial exploitation, but also verbal abuse, defined as "the repeated use of words, sounds, or other forms of communication by a caretaker, including but not limited to, language, gestures, actions or behaviors, that are calculated to humiliate or intimidate or cause fear, embarrassment, shame, or degradation." Verbal abuse by a caretaker is a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of one year in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
Elderly and Incapacitated Victim's Protection Act
The Elderly and Incapacitated Victim's Protection Act, as found in 22 O.S. § 991a and subsequent sections, is designed to provide enhanced penalties for those who commit crimes against those aged 62 or older and those with a mental or physical illness or disability who are unable to protect themselves. Offenses subject to enhanced penalties under this act include:
- Assault, battery, or assault and battery with a dangerous weapon
- Aggravated assault and battery
- Second degree burglary
- Use of a firearm or offensive weapon to commit or attempt to commit a felony
- Pointing a firearm
- Grand larceny
- Extortion or obtaining a signature by extortion
- Fraud or obtaining or attempting to obtain property by trick or deception
- Caretaker abuse, neglect or exploitation
Anyone convicted of one of these offenses in which an elderly or incapacitated person is the victim is subject to not only the penalties prescribed by the penal code, but also:
- A minimum of 30 days in jail
- Restitution to the victim for property loss or damages, medical expenses, and out-of-pocket expenses
- Community service
- And any other fine or penalty provided by law
The penalties defined by the Elderly and Incapacitated Victim's Protection act are separate and in addition to the penalties of the underlying offense.
Help Fighting a Caretaker Abuse Charge
If you have been accused of harming the physical, emotional, or financial health of a vulnerable adult entrusted to you care, you need a defense lawyer with experience in elder law now. Because the alleged victim is deemed helpless and susceptible to exploitation, you will be subject to vigorous prosecution and enhanced penalties if convicted.
Call (405) 418-8888 to speak with an attorney about your case or submit the confidential case review form on our website.
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