In a Florida Criminal Court I recently resolved a case in Pensacola where my client had been charged under Florida Statute 825.102(3) with “neglecting or abusing an elderly person,” a third degree felony, by failing to timely pay her mother’s nursing home bill. Although it took considerable research, depositions, dealing with a very antagonistic and hostile nursing home administrator and having a hearing before the felony court judge, we were able to get the case dismissed by filing a “motion to dismiss” pursuant to Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.190(c)(4).
My client’s Mother had lived with her until her mental health had decompensated to where her Mother could no longer be left alone. My client made the tough decision to admit her mother to a nursing home. She had signed a civil contract with the nursing home to cover costs of her Mother’s care if her mother did not meet the necessary costs of her being housed in the home. After wrangling with the Social Security Administration my client was able to get her mother qualified to receive medicaid. The medicaid monies were being deposited directly into the Mother’s account on which my client had signature authority. Once medicaid had been approved, my client and her Mother became behind on paying the home. The nursing home called my client three times and sent her two letters requesting payment. Because of other genuine serious family issues she didn’t place a lot of priority on paying the home and waited almost five months to get a cashier's check to them. However, in the meanwhile, the nursing home administrator had called the Florida Department of Family Services who subsequently reported the case to law enforcement. DFS requested that my client be arrested for “Neglect And/or Abuse of the Elderly” for not paying the home. Law enforcement applied for and received a warrant. After my client had paid the $7,000 delinquent bill she was arrested and subsequently bonded out of jail and awaited trial.
The State’s theory was that because the Mother could have been involuntarily discharged it could reasonably be expected that my client’s actions (not paying the bill) could have resulted in psychological or physical injury to her Mother. What the State didn’t consider is the contract required the nursing home to provide my client with 30 days written notice of the involuntary discharge thus eliminating the possibility that her mother merely would have been wheeled to the curb of the sidewalk of the home. Furthermore, the prosecution’s theory was based on future conduct or events which had not taken place and was based purely on speculation and conjecture. Because of these reasons, the Court found in our favor and dismissed the case. I told the Court my client had learned to pay her bills on time regardless of what’s happening in her life. More importantly, our already overburdened Florida Criminal justice system was not bogged down with an unmeritorious criminal case. Our system is not fool proof by any means, and certain unfounded criminal cases get prosecuted across Florida and our country everyday. Our founding father’s eliminated debtor’s prison’s long ago.