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Is Financial Exploitation of the Elderly A Crime in Texas?

Yes, financial exploitation of the elderly can be a crime. And some family members or concerned friends might be falsely accused of exploiting a senior citizen. Texas imposes serious penalties when the elderly are crime victims, so please contact Tad Nelson & Associates as soon as you catch wind of a criminal investigation. Our Houston criminal defense attorney can review the charges and pull together a defense.

Who is Elderly Under Texas Law?

Texas Penal Code §22.04 simply defines an elderly person as someone aged 65 or older.

What Laws Criminalize Financial Exploitation?

We have several statutes on the books which can apply to any financial exploitation. For example:

  • Texas Penal Code §32.53 prohibits exploitation of a child, elderly adult, or someone with a disability. It defines “exploitation” as the Illegal or improper use of a victim or the victim’s resources for personal gain or profit.
  • Texas Penal Code §31.03 also criminalizes theft, which can apply when elderly people are victims. Theft consists of appropriating someone else’s property unlawfully and without permission in order to permanently deprive the owner of it.

These are only two of the most common laws used. There may be others, including federal charges defendants can face.

What Are Examples of Financial Exploitation?

Exploitation takes many forms. Common examples of financial exploitation include:

  • Skimming money from an elderly person’s bank account
  • Using a credit card without an elderly person’s permission
  • Taking property from an elderly person without their permission
  • Keeping a senior citizen’s Social Security check or pension for your own use
  • Assuming control of a senior citizen’s finances without legal authority to do so
  • Selling a senior’s assets without permission and/or keeping the proceeds
  • Opening a credit card using an elderly person’s financial information

At base, exploitation consists of using money or assets without permission, or forcing an elderly person to do something which financially benefits you.

One misconception is that only family members can commit exploitation. In reality, anyone can. We have seen neighbors, friends, coworkers, nursing home workers, and others charged with exploitation of the elderly.

Are the Penalties Serious?

Yes. If you are charged with theft, then your punishment depends mostly on how much you stole. For example, theft of goods valued between $30,000 and $150,000 is a third-degree felony in most cases. But if your victim is elderly, you will be charged with a second-degree felony. Defendants see their charges “bumped up” a level due to the victim’s age.

A conviction under section 32.53 is a third-degree felony—regardless of how much you financially benefited from the exploitation. It is possible that anyone convicted will go to prison.

Contact Our Houston Criminal Defense Attorneys Today

Some people are wrongly accused of exploitation. For example, an elderly person might have given you goods or permission to use a credit card. Due to their age, they no longer remember doing so.

Attorney Tad Nelson can review the charges and identify the best defenses to bring. Contact him today to schedule a free consultation.