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Billingslea v. State

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Defendant was convicted for the injury of an elderly person when his mother was found in a neglected state in his care.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    A person can only be convicted of causing injury to an elderly person when the statute describes a duty to act or the defendant voluntarily assumed the duty.

    Facts.

    Hazel Billingslea, 94-years-old, was found in the care of her son (Defendant) in a neglected and injured state. Defendant was charged with the injury of an elderly individual and was convicted under the trial court. The Court of Appeals reversed and acquitted the Defendant because there was no statutory duty to act.

    Issue.

    Whether a person can be convicted of causing injury to an elderly person when the statute does not describe a duty to act?

    Held.

    No. The decision of the lower court is affirmed, despite the son neglecting his mother.

    Discussion.

    An omission can only be a crime where there is a duty to act or the defendant voluntarily assumes the duty to act. A statute has to clearly prescribe actions that must be assumed to abide by a statutory, and a defendant cannot violate the statute by doing nothing. Although the son followed his statutory duty to act by caring for his mother in his home, the failure of the statute to specify a duty to act makes the statute too vague to charge a defendant with the failure to act. The statute must specify a standard of care in order for a defendant to be convicted for a failure to act.


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