Vulnerable Adult Abuse Charges, Penalties, and Defense

Gavel depicting vulnerable adult abuse charges

Vulnerable adult abuse charges are a serious offense in Michigan. This type of abuse is often talked about and written about as “Elder Abuse.” We often hear about senior citizens being abused or neglected by caretakers.

However, for Paulette Redding of Sylvan Township, Michigan the original charges against her weren’t as a result of an elder in her care getting injured.

Vulnerable Adult Abuse Covers More than Elders

Paulette’s 21-year-old son had cerebral palsy. He died in 2015 as a result of drinking windshield washer fluid.

No mention is made of how this happened, or how Paulette discovered what he had done. His death was ruled an accident.

Paulette was charged with a felony count of vulnerable adult abuse for failing to seek medical attention fast enough. In August, Paulette pleaded no contest to a lesser charge: third-degree child abuse, which is a high-court misdemeanor. The vulnerable adult abuse charge was dismissed.

Who Qualifies as a Vulnerable Adult?

As we see in the tragic story above, a vulnerable adult has to be at least 18 years of age and require personal care or supervision. It’s someone who can’t take care of him or herself independently.

The vulnerable adult may have developmental disabilities, physical disabilities, mental illness or simply be too elderly to care for themselves properly. This definition also includes adults who are in need of adult protective services or who are living in an adult foster care home.

Penalties for Vulnerable Adult Abuse in Michigan

According to The Michigan Penal Code, the penalties for vulnerable adult abuse include the following:

First Degree

Vulnerable adult abuse in the first degree carries a maximum penalty of up to 15 years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine. It is defined as when a caregiver intentional inflicts serious mental or physical harm.

Second Degree

Vulnerable adult abuse in the second degree carries a maximum penalty of 4 years in prison and/or $5,000 in fines. It is defined as when a caregiver recklessly fails to act or acts recklessly which results in serious mental or physical harm.

Third Degree

Vulnerable adult abuse in the third degree vulnerable carries a maximum penalty of 2 years in prison and/or a $2,500 fine. It is defined as when a caregiver intentional inflicts physical harm

Fourth Degree

Vulnerable adult abuse in the fourth degree carries a maximum penalty of 1 year in jail and/or a $1,000 fine is defined as when a caregiver recklessly fails to act or acts recklessly and causes physical harm

Laws Against Retaliation and Financial Exploitation of Vulnerable Adults

The law provides special protections for vulnerable adults in conjunction with the Adult Foster Care Facility Licensing Act. This Act makes it illegal to operate an adult care facility without licensure and subjects any unlicensed facility to criminal penalties if an adult under its care dies.

The law also protects vulnerable adults from caregivers who illegally borrow or steal money intended to be set aside for their care, obstructs an investigation or misleads investigators.

The law also protects vulnerable adults from retaliation by caregivers for things like providing information to investigators, filing complaints against caregivers or participating in lawsuits or criminal action against caregivers.

In addition, embezzlement from a vulnerable adult is addressed under the Anti-Exploitation Act. Embezzlement includes using deceit, fraud, unjust enrichment or coercion to gain control of a vulnerable adult’s money.

If the defendant knows or has reason to know that this is a vulnerable adult, the crime could be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony with up to 20 years in prison depending on the circumstances and the amount of money stolen.

The Law Protects Employees

If you are an employee of an adult foster care facility, you are required by law to report abuse or suspected abuse of a vulnerable adult. You are protected by the law to the same degree as the vulnerable adult in question.

Healthcare professionals, social workers, educators, medical examiners, and law officers are also mandated reporters of vulnerable adult abuse.

Conclusion

We can’t know if Paulette Redding recklessly neglected to seek medical treatment for her son. However, we do know that law enforcement officers and medical personnel involved were doing their duty by reporting what they suspected was vulnerable adult abuse.

Defense Against Vulnerable Adult Abuse Charges

If you are facing charges of abusing a vulnerable adult, seek professional assistance immediately. These are serious charges with potentially devastating effects for your life.

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