BUSINESS LAW 101 / Abuse of Disabled and Elderly People

By Albert L. Kelley, Esq.

Florida Statute 825 covers one of the most heinous crimes in all the Florida Statutes.  This is the Section of law that discusses abuse of elderly and disabled persons.  Any abuse is inexcusable, but to abuse someone that is particularly vulnerable and unable to defend themselves is despicable.

First, we need some definitions. Under the statute, “Disabled adult” means “a person 18 years of age or older who suffers from a condition of physical or mental incapacitation due to a developmental disability, organic brain damage, or mental illness, or who has one or more physical or mental limitations that restrict the person’s ability to perform the normal activities of daily living”.  “Elderly person” means “a person 60 years of age or older who is suffering from the infirmities of aging as manifested by advanced age or organic brain damage, or other physical, mental, or emotional dysfunctioning, to the extent that the ability of the person to provide adequately for the person’s own care or protection is impaired.”  Finally, is the definition of abuse.  Abuse does not just mean physical harm; it also covers psychological harm.  Abuse is defined as the “Intentional infliction of physical or psychological injury upon an elderly person or disabled adult; an intentional act that could reasonably be expected to result in physical or psychological injury to an elderly person or disabled adult; or active encouragement of any person to commit an act that results or could reasonably be expected to result in physical or psychological injury to an elderly person or disabled adult.” If the abuse does not cause great physical harm it is a third-degree felony.

If the violator commits an aggravated battery on an elderly person or disabled adult, willfully tortures, maliciously punishes, or willfully and unlawfully cages, an elderly person or disabled adult; or knowingly or willfully abuses an elderly person or disabled adult and in so doing causes great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement to the elderly person or disabled adult it is deemed aggravated abuse of the elderly or disabled and becomes a first-degree felony.

Abuse can also occur through the failure to take certain actions. Those people who are caregivers to the elderly or disabled have standards that they must comply with.  If a caregiver’s fails to provide an elderly person or disabled adult with the care, supervision, and services necessary to maintain their physical and mental health, including providing food, nutrition, clothing, shelter, supervision, medicine, and medical services, or if they fail to make a reasonable effort to protect an elderly person or disabled adult from abuse, neglect, or exploitation by another person, the caregiver is guilty of neglect which is a second-degree felony.

Another area of abuse occurs with sexual abuse.  When a person encourages, forces, or entices an elderly person or disabled person to engage in any act involving sexual activity, when they know or should know the elderly or disabled person either lacks the capacity to consent or fails to give consent, they have committed a second-degree felony.  If the person touches an elderly person’s genitals, breasts, or buttocks, whether clothed or unclothed, when the person knows or should know the elderly or disabled person either lacks the capacity to consent or fails to give consent, it is referred to as “lewd or lascivious molestation of an elderly person or disabled person” and is a third-degree felony.  Finally, if a person exposes themselves or commits a lewd act in the presence of an elderly or disabled person, again when the person knows or should know the elderly or disabled person either lacks the capacity to consent or fails to give consent, it is referred to as “lewd or lascivious exhibition in the presence of an elderly person or disabled person” and is a third-degree felony.

Al Kelley is a Florida business law attorney located in Key West and previously taught business law, personnel law, and labor law at St. Leo University.  He is the author of five law books available through Absolutely Amazing E-Books and the host of “Basics Of The Law”, a weekly YouTube channel. This article is being offered as a public service and is not intended to provide specific legal advice.  If you have any questions about legal issues, you should confer with a licensed Florida attorney.