Vulnerable Adult Crimes

The Michigan Penal Code gives special status to those classified as a “vulnerable adult”. This status is based upon the presumed need in our society to protect those that are less capable because of physical or mental disabilities. Vulnerable adult crimes are almost always considered “policy cases” by prosecutors. Severe criminal penalties are associated with every crime involving the misappropriation of money or property or causing physical/mental harm to a vulnerable adult.

Vulnerable adult defined

In Michigan, a vulnerable adult is defined as an individual age 18 or over who, because of age, developmental disability, mental illness, or physical disability requires supervision or personal care or lacks the personal and social skills required to live independently.

Economic crimes under the vulnerable adult statute

MCL750.174a provides criminal penalties when a person, though fraud, deceit, misrepresentation or coercion obtains or uses the money or property of a vulnerable adult and the person knows or has reason to know that the adult is vulnerable.

Money or property obtained or usedMaximum Penalty
$1,000 but less than $20,0005 years imprisonment
$20,000 but less than $50,00010 years imprisonment
$50,000 but less than $100,00015 years imprisonment
$100,000 or more20 years imprisonment

Triple penalty, restitution: In addition to possible incarceration, all economic crimes in Michigan (larceny, embezzlement, fraud), including those against a vulnerable adult, can carry a financial penalty of up to 3x the amount of money or property obtained by the offender. In addition, the court can order payment of restitution to any victim for losses attributed to the conduct of the offender. Losses may also include accounting costs which are attributed to the economic crime. Restitution may also include reimbursement to third parties such as insurance companies.

Abuse of vulnerable adult penalties

MCL 750.145n provides the criminal penalties in situations involving physical or mental abuse of a vulnerable adult.

First Degree: Intentional conduct which causes serious physical or mental harm is a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison and/or $10,000.00 fine.

Second Degree: Reckless conduct which causes serious physical or mental harm is a felony punishable by up to 4 years in prison and/or $5,000.00 fine.

Third Degree: Intentional conduct which causes physical harm is a felony punishable by up to 2 years in prison and/or $2,500.00 fine.

Fourth Degree: Reckless act causes physical harm is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 1 year and/or $1,000.00 fine.

Caregivers are at risk when providing assistance to vulnerable adults

ABDO LAW is seeing an influx of criminal investigations and criminal charges involving crimes against vulnerable adults. This can be attributed to the fact that people are living longer and eventually need the assistance from others to manage their economic affairs (payment of bills, buying groceries, maintaining real estate, banking) and provide in-home care. Problems may arise when a caregiver receives money or property, such as jewelry, from an individual that qualifies as a vulnerable adult. Even a recipient of a cash gift might be questioned by other disgruntled family members under certain circumstances. Caregivers also face possible abuse accusations when a vulnerable adult sustains an unexplained injury. Vulnerable adults may suffer injuries from falling or other reasons associated with age or disability. To further complicate matters, the vulnerable adult may be a person that has memory problems, dementia or other communication difficulties and is unable to come to the defense of an accused party.

Consensual gift/compensation? Deceit, coercion, misrepresentation?

There are two sides to the story when someone is accused of misappropriating the money or property of a vulnerable adult. The police will hear one story while the criminal defense lawyer will hear the opposite. A police report may claim that a vulnerable adult was swindled out of his or her money or property by an entrusted party. On the other end of the spectrum, the defense lawyer may be told that the money or property was a consensual gift or compensation. Unfortunately, there is rarely any consensus when family members take sides in matters where money is involved.

Law enforcement tactics, talking to the police

Retaining a criminal defense lawyer should be your first priority if you are the subject of a criminal investigation. Law enforcement officers follow a similar pattern in the way that they investigate a person accused or a crime. Once the police have gathered evidence, they will attempt to get a statement from the accused party. The accused will be asked to meet a detective at the police station and the accused and will not be told that he or she is a target of a criminal investigation. The police invariably will expect the accused party to deny any wrongdoing. However, the police will use this interview as an opportunity to establish pertinent facts and a timeline that may be incriminating. Remember, the police will already have conducted a preliminary investigation and will be armed with information such as medical records and financial statements beforehand. Following an interview, the accused will be asked to submit to a polygraph examination. Watch this You Tube video which has had over 6,000,000 views for an excellent lecture on your right to remain silent.

Defense strategies

When accused of a crime pertaining to a vulnerable adult, we will begin our own investigation by gathering information about the parties involved. Our criminal defense lawyers may employ a private investigator to take statements from potential witnesses that have a close relationship with the alleged vulnerable person and the accused party. We look for witnesses, like neighbors or other regular visitors, that can supply personal information regarding the vulnerable adult’s mental state of mind. The ultimate question is whether any foul play was present or misunderstandings that have been taken out of context.

Contact the ABDO LAW FIRM for comprehensive criminal legal representation if you are accused of any misdemeanor or felony in Macomb, Oakland or Wayne or St. Clair County. Legal entanglements are often manageable. All it takes is one phone call to get answers to your most pressing legal questions and immediate attention to your legal problem by attorneys with the highest legal ratings.

Matthew S. Abdo, Super Lawyer, Top Ranked Criminal Defense Lawyer
Cy M. Abdo, Martindale Hubbell, highest possible rating for integrity and legal ability

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