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Texas Laws for Abuse of the Elderly

Criminal Law Blog by The Law Office of Greg Tsioros

Texas Laws for Abuse of the Elderly

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Elder Abuse Laws in Texas

Under Texas law, people who commit crimes against vulnerable members of society may face enhanced penalties. This includes crimes which target citizens who are aged 65 or older. Because senior citizens may be especially vulnerable to certain kinds of abuse, crimes which are committed against them are considered especially serious.

Abuse of the elderly can take many forms. Physical abuse can include incidents of assault and violence. Financial abuse can occur when caretakers or family members misuse or steal money belonging to senior citizens, including Medicare or Social Security benefits.

A conviction for abuse of the elderly can be punished with jail time, fines and the loss of a license to work as a caretaker.


Types of Elder Abuse

Abuse of senior citizens can take many forms. Elder abuse charges can be filed for any type of abuse which targets a person aged 65 or older.

Physical Abuse

This category includes any type of physical action which is harmful or injurious to a senior citizen, including:

Emotional Abuse

Many senior citizens are vulnerable to emotional abuse because of health conditions or lack of access to their family members or loved ones. This category can include:

  • Denying an elderly person the ability to see or visit family or loved ones
  • Assault, including verbal threats of harm or degradation
  • Falsely telling an elderly person that their family members have been harmed or killed

Financial Abuse

Many senior citizens live on fixed or limited incomes. They may receive Medicare or Social Security benefits which enable them to pay for medications and care. Taking advantage of a senior citizen to misuse their benefit funds is a crime. Such actions can include:

  • Stealing medications from an elderly person to sell for profit
  • Depriving an elderly person of their benefit checks
  • Cashing or depositing a senior citizen’s benefit checks into another account

How Elderly Abuse Is Investigated

In Texas, the law requires that people who suspect that elder abuse is occurring must report it to an appropriate agency. In most cases, these crimes are reported to local law enforcement agencies.

Once an incident of elder abuse has been reported, local law enforcement may conduct an investigation and notify Adult Protective Services.

APS specializes in investigating cases of elder abuse. When they receive a report of a suspected crime, they can conduct several actions to investigate the claim. They may work in conjunction with law enforcement officers to carry out their investigation. As part of their efforts, APS workers may:

  • Interview the alleged victim or their family members
  • Interview the alleged perpetrator of the abuse
  • Inspect the home or care facility where the alleged victim resides
  • Review security camera footage or documents in a care facility
  • Bring in physicians to conduct a medical investigation of physical abuse signs
  • Review the work history or criminal background of an alleged offender
  • Review financial documents or bank statements of a suspected abuse victim for signs of misused finances

If the APS investigation discovers probable signs of elder abuse, they may inform local law enforcement and criminal charges may be filed. The alleged offender may be arrested and taken into custody or they may be served with a court summons.

Penalties For Elder Abuse

Because senior citizens are a considered a protected class of people under Texas law, any crimes committed against them may be enhanced to a more severe penalty category.

For example, Section 22.01 of the Texas Penal Code states that the crime of simple assault is a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of no more than $500. However, a person who is convicted of committing assault against a person aged 65 or older will face Class A misdemeanor charges. These charges are punishable by:

  • Up to one year in county jail
  • A fine of up to $4000

Also, in Texas, the crime of sexual assault is considered a second degree felony offense, punishable by two to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. However, committing an act of sexual assault against a person aged 65 or older can be automatically upgraded to aggravated sexual assault. This is a felony of the first degree and is punishable by:

  • Five to 99 years in state prison
  • A fine of up to $10,000

It is also a crime to willingly or knowingly report an incident of elder abuse in Texas. A person who has cause to believe that an elderly person is being abused, neglected or exploited and knowingly fails to report the incident to the appropriate authorities is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor. This is punishable by:

  • Up to one year in county jail
  • A fine of up to $4000

In addition the punishments listed here, any caretakers who commit elder abuse or who fail to report cases of elder abuse may lose their licenses to practice in the state. They may have to report these convictions on future job employment applications and they may be terminated from their current employment as caretakers.

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