What Is the Law on Abuse of Authority in Florida and What Are the Punishments for It?
When people are accorded a position of authority, they attempt to act in a manner that allows them to retain themselves in this position of power. Sometimes, these means may not be judicious. Laws have been devised to prevent such from happening in society. Societal functioning necessitates that some people enjoy more discretionary powers than others. However, these people cannot infringe on other people’s rights to safeguard their own. The Constitution enlists laws that protect against such misdemeanors. “Abuse of Authority” laws can be of several kinds, just as “Abuse of Authority” can be exercised in several circumstances. Child abuse, elderly abuse, abuse of the rights enabled by holding a public office is all abuse indulged in by people with a certain authority. So, what are the laws protecting the citizens of Florida from “Abuse of Authority” and what are the punishments for such abuse?
A Few Kinds of Abuse of Authority Recognized by Florida State Law
- Power of Attorney Abuse – A power of attorney is an agent that takes care of legalities on behalf of the principal. When a person is transferred the power of attorney, they can handle the bank account, property holdings and other possessions of the person who has transferred the POA to them. The set-up in itself allows for fraud. The person transferring his/her power of attorney could be a victim to embezzlement, unlawful gifting and so on. The authority handed over to the power of attorney is abused by him/her in such instances. If the principal is still alive at the time of the abuse, they can sue the agent. Otherwise, the rightful beneficiaries of the deceased can sue the agent for miscarriage of fiduciary duty. Chapter 709 of the Florida Statutes list all powers that can be enjoyed by a Power of Attorney and ones which are beyond the POA’s executioners responsibilities. The same can be used to penalize rogue POAs.
- Child Abuse – Children depend on their guardians for support and sustenance. If the guardian abuses this authority and intentionally does not provide for the child or harms them physically/mentally/sexually, they can be hauled up for “Abuse of Authority”. Child abuse laws bring these offenders and perpetrators to the book by duly punishing them for their offense. Section 827.03 declares child abuse to be a third-degree felony, which can lead to the perpetrator being imprisoned for up to 5 years.
- Elder Abuse – Like children, the elderly too are dependents. They rely on their offspring to provide for them. Now, if their children abuse the authority accorded to them by circumstance, it is considered an “Abuse of Authority”. The abuse sustained by elders could be financial in nature, where their financial holdings are mishandled by the children who have been extended legal control over them. The abuse could be emotional and it could also be physical in nature. Both child abuse and elder abuse fall under the Family Protection Act law and can sentence the offender to a five-day jail term. Statute 825.102 details the law against elder abuse in Florida and is considered a felony. Jail term accorded to the offender can be anything between 5-30 years, depending on the seriousness of the abuse.
Florida looks upon any kind of “Abuse of Authority” with strictness. Be it child abuse, elderly abuse or power of attorney abuse, to name a few. The Florida Statute lists due punishment for all such offenses which penalize the offender and send an explicit warning to possible perpetrators who might commit similar crimes in the future.