The elderly in Texas deserve our protection. The Texas legislature agrees, which is why there are several enhanced penalties that people can face when they abuse senior citizens. At Tad Nelson & Associates, our team of Houston criminal defense attorneys know how upsetting it can be to face accusations of abusing an elderly person, especially a relative. You might be caring for an elderly parent when a sibling rashly alleges you have struck or neglected your loved one. You need an experienced lawyer to counter these accusations.
Different Types of Elder Abuse
Any abuse of someone aged 65 or older qualifies as elder abuse:
- Physical abuse, which includes assault or neglect. Someone who refuses to feed an elderly person has abused them, just as someone who slaps, pinches, or smothers a senior citizen has committed abuse.
- Sexual abuse, which can include sexual assault or sexual contact with someone who lacks capacity.
- Emotional abuse, which can include isolating a senior from other family members.
- Financial abuse, including any type of stealing from a senior citizen, such as cashing their checks or removing items from their home. Financial abuse can include identity theft.
Sometimes there is also an innocent explanation for a suspected problem. For example, a senior might have misplaced money or items, which they believe were stolen—a common problem when a person has dementia. Or an elderly loved one suffered bruising due to a fall or an undiagnosed medical condition. Unfortunately, a family member or friend who doesn’t really know what’s going on might accuse you of abuse.
Elderly Abuse Investigations
Under Texas law, anyone who suspects elder abuse or neglect must make a report to the police or the Department of Family and Protective Services. It is a Class A misdemeanor to knowingly fail to make a report. For this reason, the state regularly receives reports of suspected abuse when no abuse is really happening.
You might be shocked to hear from either the police or Adult Protective Services (APS), who show up at your door.
As part of an investigation, they might interview the elderly family member. Investigators could also come to the home and have a doctor examine the elderly person.
If you are suspected of abuse, you might also be interviewed. Be careful. Both the police and APS could end up using your words as part of a criminal prosecution. They might not even tell you that you are a suspect.
Elder abuse is a shocking crime—but frivolous accusations do occur. Sometimes a sibling is trying to get guardianship of a parent and might accuse you of abuse or neglect to get a leg up. Nonetheless, you should take any allegations seriously.
Criminal Charges in Texas for Elder Abuse
Elder abuse falls under different statutes. Texas law considers seniors a protected class, so penalties are usually enhanced.
Simple assault is a Class C misdemeanor in many cases. But if you assault a person aged 65 or older, then you can be charged with a Class A misdemeanor, and your punishment is kicked up to a maximum year in jail and a $4,000 fine.
Sexual assault is usually a second-degree felony in Texas. But if your victim is 65 or older, then it is automatically an aggravated sexual assault, with penalties of 5-99 years in prison and a maximum $10,000 fine.
Stealing from a senior citizen also carries enhanced penalties. A theft offense will be charged at the next highest level if your victim is elderly. So stealing less than $100 is typically a Class C misdemeanor, with no prison time. It gets bumped up to a Class B misdemeanor due to the victim’s age. Suddenly, you can face the prospect of 180 days in jail if convicted.
Similarly, if you stole between $750 and $2,500, you would normally face Class A misdemeanor charges. However, because your victim is elderly, you now face state jail felony charges—and have to deal with all the repercussions of being a convicted felon.
Get the Defense You Need
Family issues are very sensitive. We realize that most accusations of neglect and abuse are complicated, so we want to hear your side of the story. Any accusation is just that—an accusation. Once we have all the facts, we can present your version of events to explain why no abuse has occurred. Please call our law firm to speak with an experienced Houston criminal defense lawyer about any criminal charges you are facing. Our consultations are confidential and no-risk.