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Abuse of an Elderly or Disabled Person in Florida

When criminal cases involve victims who typically can’t stand up for themselves—children, elderly, or disabled people—it is likely that the State will prosecute harshly. Even if the defendant has done no wrongdoing, the prosecution will try to prove that they are at fault for the alleged crime.

This article will provide helpful information on disabled and elder abuse in Florida, along with a recent case of disabled abuse in Florida.

Charges for Disabled or Elderly Abuse

Florida Statute section 825.102 covers the various charges a person can face for alleged abuse against a disabled or elderly person. The charges vary from neglect, abuse, and aggravated abuse of a disabled or elderly person.

Florida Law defines an elderly person as someone who is 60 years old or older and suffers from either advanced age, organic brain damage, or other physical, mental, or emotional dysfunctioning. These maladies must impair the person’s ability to care for or protect themselves.

Neglect of a Disabled or Elderly Person

The neglect of a disabled or elderly person is committed when a caregiver of a disabled or elderly person fails to provide the proper care, supervision, or services that are required to maintain the disabled or elderly person’s mental and physical health. This can include providing food, shelter, clothing, supervision, prescribed medicine, or medical services that are essential to the disabled or elderly person’s well-being.

One thing to note is that the negligent behavior reported can be based on repeated actions, or on a single incident or omission that results in serious physical or psychological injury to said victim.

Any person who willfully or by culpable negligence neglects a disabled or elderly person without causing great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement to the victim can be charged with a third-degree felony in Florida. A third-degree felony has a penalty of up to a $5,000 fine and up to five years in prison.

Any person who willfully or by culpable negligence neglects a disabled or elderly person and in doing so causes great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement to the victim can be charged with a second-degree felony in Florida. A second-degree felony has a penalty of up to a $10,000 fine and up to fifteen years in prison.

Abuse of a Disabled or Elderly Person

The abuse of a disabled or elderly person is defined as the intentional infliction of physical or psychological injury upon a disabled or elderly person. It is also considered when an intentional act could reasonably be expected to result in physical or psychological injury to a disabled or elderly person.

In addition, any active encouragement to commit an act that could result in physical or psychological injury to a disabled or elderly person could result in charges for abuse of a disabled or elderly person.

Any person who willfully or knowingly abuses a disabled or elderly person without causing great bodily harm, permanent disfigurement, or permanent disability to a disabled or elderly person can be charged with a third-degree felony in Florida. A third-degree felony has a penalty of up to a $5,000 fine and up to five years in prison.

Aggravated Abuse of a Disabled or Elderly Person

The aggravated abuse of a disabled or elderly person was reclassified on July 1st, 2008 from a second-degree to a first-degree felony. Codified under Florida Statute section 825.102(2), aggravated abuse of a disabled or elderly person occurs when a person commits any of the following:

  • Commits aggravated battery on a disabled or elderly person;
  • Willfully or maliciously tortures, punishes, or cages a disabled or elderly person; or
  • Willfully or knowingly abuses a disabled or elderly person, and in doing so causes great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement to a disabled or elderly person.

A person charged with aggravated abuse of a disabled or elderly person can result in a first-degree felony in Florida. A first-degree felony has a penalty of up to a $10,000 fine and up to 30 years in prison.

Physical Signs for Abuse

Any type of abuse against disabled persons or elderly people is against the law in Florida. When a person is accused of abusing elderly or disabled persons, the investigation typically begins after an incident is reported to the Florida Department of Children and Families. Allegations of abuse can come from healthcare professionals, family members, neighbors, or an anonymous witness. These allegations may occur if another party notices a sign of physical abuse.

The following is a list of physical signs of abuse on a disabled person that could result in a criminal investigation:

  • Bruises
  • Burns
  • Cuts
  • Imprint injuries (marks shaped like fingers, thumbs, hands, etc)
  • Spotty balding
  • Broken bones
  • Sprains
  • Abrasions or scrapes
  • Missing teeth

Agency for Persons with Disabilities

In 2004, the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (ADP) was created as a separate entity from the Department of Children and Families. The organization is governed by Florida Statute Chapter 20, Chapter 393, and Chapter 916.

The agency’s goal is to serve the needs of Florida citizens with developmental disabilities, along with providing useful resources around the state. ADP works with local organizations to provide those in need with social, medical, behavioral, residential, and other services.

According to ADP’s site, they serve over 50,000 Floridians with the following disabilities:

  • Autism
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Spina bifida
  • Intellectual disabilities
  • Down Syndrome
  • Prader-Willi Syndrome
  • Phelan-McDermid Syndrome
  • Children ages 3-5 who are at a high risk of developmental disabilities

Example Case

Flagler County Sheriff’s Department arrested Chelsey Payne, 30, for allegations of abuse against a disabled person. According to the report, the Sheriff’s office received a complaint on November 22nd, 2022 about an incident at the Palm Coast Community Center. Once officers arrived, a concerned witness provided them with details about the alleged abuse that took place.

The concerned citizen told an FCSO Community Policing Division (CPD) Deputy that a woman had potentially abused a disabled man on their property the day before. The deputy was given surveillance footage from the property for the investigation.

The reviewed footage displayed an encounter between a woman and a disabled adult man. In the video, the woman is shown shoving the man and then striking him in the face multiple times. The footage showed her hitting the victim with both an open and closed fist.

Deputies utilized the FCSO’s Real Time Crime Center, which is an advanced technology to identify the identity of suspects in a surveillance video. The system was able to identify the suspect as Chelsey Renee Payne of Mateo, Florida. At the time of the incident, Payne had been working for East Coast Habilitation Options, Inc. but has since been fired from her position.

Detectives obtained a warrant for Payne’s arrest on December 2nd, 2022. The suspect was arrested at her Putnam County home and has since been released on a $7,500 bond. Payne is facing charges of abuse of a disabled adult.

“This supposed ‘caretaker’ clearly did not show any care or compassion while she was abusing a disabled person,” said Sheriff Rick Staly. “We send our deepest sympathies to the victim and their family. I commend our Major Case detectives for quickly solving this case with initially very little information to go on.”

Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida

Crimes committed against disabled or elderly persons are harshly prosecuted in Florida. Convictions for abuse against disabled or elderly persons can lead to expensive fines, imprisonment, and obtaining a criminal record that states you were charged with a violent crime. If you or someone you love has been accused of abusing an elder or disabled person, it is important to seek out legal advice before doing anything else.

Pumphrey Law Firm has years of experience dealing with abuse allegations in Florida. Our team of criminal defense attorneys will review your case and work with you to build a strong defense. For a free consultation today, contact us at (850) 681-7777 or leave an online message on our website.

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