In a recent opinion coming out of a Virginia court, the defendant’s arguments were partially successful in appealing her guilty convictions. Originally, the defendant was convicted of financially exploiting an incapacitated adult and of abusing or neglecting an incapacitated adult. As a result of the defendant’s arguments on appeal, the court reversed the financial exploitation conviction and affirmed the abuse or neglect conviction.
Facts of the Case
According to the opinion, the defendant, a woman in her fifties, lived with her mother, who was in her eighties at the time of this case. In the years prior to this conviction, a social worker had visited the defendant and her mother several times, since it seemed the defendant was not adequately caring for her mother in the apartment. The mother relied on her daughter for financial support, sponge baths, and other personal hygiene matters. The social worker had reported on various occasions that the defendant’s mother often smelled of urine, that neither the defendant nor her mother had a bed to sleep on but instead slept on a couch and a chair, and that both parties had refused many of the social worker’s services when she had come to visit.
One day in 2020, the defendant’s mother fell. Two days later, a pest control worker found the defendant and her mother in their apartment and promptly called 911. The defendant’s mother was taken to the hospital, and the doctors reported that she was covered in feces, urine, and bed bugs at the time she was admitted. She had been lying on the floor for two days before she received care, and she was suffering from bedsores that showed the risk of infection. After being discharged, the defendant’s mother died in hospice care a couple of months later.
Shortly after the defendant’s mother was admitted to the hospital, the defendant began using her mother’s Social Security money to pay for a hotel room, as she had been recently evicted from her apartment. The defendant never asked her mother for permission to use this money.
After being criminally charged, the defendant was found guilty of financial exploitation of a mentally incapacitated adult and abuse or neglect of an incapacitated adult. After she appealed the guilty convictions, the court considered each conviction individually.
When looking at the conviction for financial exploitation, the court agreed that even though the defendant’s mother was clearly incapacitated with respect to her healthcare decisions, she was not necessarily incapacitated with respect to her financial matters. According to the court, there was no evidence on the record that the defendant’s mother was incapable of making decisions for herself regarding her own financial matters. Because this proof did not exist, the defendant could not be found guilty of taking advantage of an incapacitated adult’s finances. This first conviction was thus reversed.
Regarding the conviction for abuse or neglect of an incapacitated adult, the court affirmed the defendant’s guilty conviction. It was clear, said the court, that the defendant’s mother was not able to make informed decisions regarding her health and that the defendant was negligent in taking care of her mother. The bed sores posed a significant risk of infection, and the mother’s risk of death was a direct result of a neglected physical condition. In addition, the fact that the mother was covered in bed bugs, urine, and feces served as further evidence of substantial neglect. Given these facts, the court affirmed the defendant’s second guilty conviction.
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