Archive for June, 2011

Supreme Court looks at the Vulnerable Adult Statute.

Posted in Uncategorized on June 17, 2011 by tobywelchlaw

Decker v. State. Today the Supreme Court reversed and rendered an exploitiation of a vulnerable adult case. Decker was indicted for four counts of exploting her mother by using her money “without her consent”. Ms. Morris, Decker’s mother, had short term memory loss and could not provide for her own needs. Decker, her daughter, was allowed to write checks on Morris’ account “for whatever she needed”. The checks totaled $10, 255.02. The State dismissed count 1 and the Decker was found not guilty on the next two counts but was found guilty on Count 4, when Decker wrote checks totaling $4,120 while Morris was living with Decker’s sister and Decker was in Texas caring for her son, and sentenced to four years in prison. The indictment read that Decker had used her mother’s money “without her consent”. The proof, which was uncontroverted, was that Morris had given Decker permission to use the money. The trial court, instead of granting a directed verdict, allowed the State to have an instruction, over Decker’s objection, that stated Decker could be found guilty, “regardless of whether it was done with, or without (her) consent.” The Supreme Court, 7-0, reversed and rendered the case on the grounds that allowing the State to have a jury instruction that was the the opposite of the language in the indictment was improper. Frankly, I don’t understand how they got the instruction.

A broader and disappointing point to this case was the Court’s decision to not address the vulnerable adult statute on its face. The Court addressed, briefly, its very real concerns with the statute. They wrote, that as applied by the Attorney General, a vulnerable adult can not give a spouse permission to withdraw money from a checking account to buy herself a birthday present, or give a child permission to pay for tuition.

“We are troubled by the statute’s broad reach. But because we have decided his case on the conflict between the language of the indictment and the jury instruction, we decline to address today the constitutionality of the statute.”

I understand the basis and reasoning for the statute but it is very over broad and should be sent back to the drawing board. I don’t know how you do it, but as seen from this case, trusting the State to exercise prosecutorial discretion doesn’t always work. If the vulnerable adult gives permission, without fraud or coercion, there should be no crime. Interpreting the statute the way the AG does, a vulnerable adult is precluded from disposing of their assets how they decide. That is too much government interference, for me.