Billingslea v. State

780 S.W.2d 271 (Tex. Crim. App. 1989)

 

RULE:

A person commits an offense if he voluntarily engages in conduct, including an act, omission, or possession. A person who omits to perform an act does not commit an offense unless a statute provides that the omission is an offense or otherwise provides that he has a duty to perform the act.

FACTS:

Hazel Billingslea was found by social services, adult protective services, and Dallas police officers with bedsores, burns, blisters, and loss of muscle, caused by months of neglect. Defendant, Hazel Billingslea’s son, was charged with injury of an elderly individual for failure to get Hazel Billingslea the medical care she needed. The jury found the defendant guilty. However, his conviction was reversed, and he was acquitted. The state petitioned for a discretionary review, and the appellate court affirmed the acquittal.

ISSUE:

Can someone be convicted and subsequently charged for causing injury due to neglect when the statute does not describe a duty to act?

ANSWER:

No.

CONCLUSION:

The indictment charging the defendant was fundamentally defective because there was no statutory duty to act. Without a statutory duty, his omissions were not punishable under the law. The indictment alleged sufficient facts to imply both a duty to act and an omission under the common law, but it lacked the requisite statutory duty to care for an elderly person.

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