What kind of judicial action can be taken to protect vulnerable adults?
If the vulnerable adult is incompetent to take care of personal needs such as provision of reasonable housing, medical care, or food, a petition to appoint a guardian of the person may be brought. If the vulnerable adult is incompetent to make decisions regarding financial affairs, a petition to appoint a conservator of the person’s estate can be brought. If a guardian or conservator is appointed, that person has the obligation to assist the individual with management of the individual’s affairs, whether it be managing the person’s bank account, or finding the person a safe place to live, and arranging for the person’s admission and move to the new residence.

Another legal remedy that does not result in the vulnerable adult being placed under guardianship or conservatorship is an action for injunctive relief, where the petitioner requests a court order requiring a party to do or refrain from doing a particular action that is harmful to the vulnerable adult. These legal actions may be brought by attorneys in the County Attorney’s Office’s Protective Services Unit, as part if their responsibility under the Vulnerable Adults Act.

If a finding is made of maltreatment of a vulnerable adult, the perpetrator of the maltreatment will be disqualified from employment working with vulnerable adults or children. The perpetrator could be liable for civil damages in a private lawsuit.

In a criminal proceeding, action can be taken by the State against a person charged with financial exploitation, criminal neglect, or abuse of a vulnerable adult. These matters would be handled in the Criminal Division of the County Attorney’s Office.

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1. When does the County Attorney’s Office become involved with adult protection matters?
2. What is a vulnerable adult?
3. What kind of judicial action can be taken to protect vulnerable adults?
4. Can private individuals file their own guardianship/conservatorship petitions, without the involvement of the County Attorney’s Office?
5. What can private citizens do to assist with the protection of vulnerable adults?