Assaulting anyone over the age of 65 may result in elder abuse charges in California. Under California's elder abuse laws, the physical, emotional, or even financial abuse of an older person is a crime. The penalties for elder abuse could result in years in prison, fines, and a felony criminal record. If you were accused of elder abuse in the East Bay, you do not have to plead guilty just because you were arrested.
California Elder Abuse Laws
Under California Penal Code PC §368, anyone who willfully causes or permits an elder adult to suffer physical pain or mental suffering, or allows an elder to be placed in a dangerous situation may be guilty of elder abuse. This includes any actions to a person reasonably known to be an elder age 65 or older under circumstances likely to produce great bodily harm or death.
In enacting California's elder abuse laws, the legislature found that crimes against the elderly, as well as dependent adults, were in need of special consideration, similar to the protections for minor children. As people get older, they may suffer physical and mental impairments that could potentially make them more vulnerable to abuse.
According to lawmakers, “elders and dependent adults may be confused, on various medications, mentally or physically impaired, or incompetent, and therefore less able to protect themselves, to understand or report criminal conduct, or to testify in court proceedings on their own behalf.” California Penal Code PC §368(a).
Financial Elder Abuse
It is also a crime to take financial advantage of an elderly adult. Any person, including a caretaker, who commits theft, fraud, embezzlement, forgery, fraud, or identity theft involving property of an elder adult is financial elder abuse.
If the financial abuse of an elder involves theft or loss of more than $950 in value, the crime may be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. The penalties for felony financial abuse of an elderly person could result in 2, 3, or 4 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
If the elder financial abuse involves a loss not exceeding $950, it is generally a misdemeanor. The penalties for misdemeanor elder abuse include up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
Mandatory Reporting of Suspected Elder Abuse
Certain groups and professions are required by law to report suspected cases of elder abuse. These are known as mandated reporters. Mandated reporters include staff of healthcare facilities, including nursing homes and hospitals; health practitioners; clergy; employees of adult protective services; and law enforcement personnel. In some cases, employees of financial institutions are mandated to report financial abuse.
Failure to report physical abuse, neglect, or financial abuse can be charged as a misdemeanor offense, punishable by up to 6 months in jail. The penalties can be even higher if failure to report physical abuse results in death or great bodily injury.
Criminal Penalties for Elder Abuse
The penalties for elder abuse depend on the extent of the abuse, the age of the victim, and the defendant's criminal record.
Abuse of an elder under conditions that are likely to produce great bodily harm or death can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony offense. Any person convicted of misdemeanor elder abuse can face up to 1 year in county jail and a fine of up to $6,000. The penalties for felony elder abuse include imprisonment for 2, 3, or 4 years in prison and a fine of up to $6,000.
If the abuse causes an elderly person to suffer great bodily injury, the defendant may receive an additional prison term of:
- 3 years if the victim is under age 70
- 5 years if the victim is 70 years of age or older.
If the abuse proximately causes the elderly person's death, the defendant may receive an additional prison term of”
- 5 years if the victim is under age 70
- 7 years if the victim is 70 years of age or older.
Abuse under circumstances other than those likely to result in great bodily harm or death may be charged as a misdemeanor. This includes incidents that may result in minor injury or suffering. A second or subsequent violation may result in up to a year in jail and a find of up to $1,000.
Anyone who commits false imprisonment of an elder by use of violence, menace, fraud, or deceit may be punished by imprisonment for up to 4 years.
California Abuser's Treatment Counseling Program
Anyone convicted of elder abuse may be required to receive counseling as a condition of probation. The counseling program may require the defendant to go to regular meetings and pay for the cost of the treatment program.
In addition, a conviction may result in a criminal protective order, sometimes called a “restraining order,” to protect the elderly victims from further threats or violence, including stay-away conditions where necessary, for up to 10 years, as determined by the court. The factors that determine the length of a restraining order include the probability of future violations and the safety of the victim and his or her family.
Defenses to Criminal Charges of Elder Abuse
Many innocent family member and caregivers are falsely accused of elder abuse. The elderly may get bruised, injured, or suffer broken bones through simple accidents, through no fault of the caregiver. Unfortunately, these injuries can be blamed on caregivers who are accused of neglecting their duties or even as intentional abuse.
There may be a number of defenses to allegations of elder abuse. Your experienced East Bay criminal defense attorney will investigate your case and identify the best available legal defenses. Some defenses to elder abuse include:
- Another person was responsible for the injuries;
- Injuries were accidental;
- A family member falsely claimed abuse to get control of the elderly family member's finances; or
- The elderly individual did not suffer an injury or harm.
Talk to your attorney about possible defenses in your case. Your East Bay criminal defense attorney will identify the weaknesses in the prosecutor's side, to provide the best defense in your case.
East Bay Criminal Defense Attorney
Lynn Gorelick has more than 30 years of criminal defense experience defending her clients facing elder abuse and neglect charges. She understands how to approach the individual facts of each case for the greatest chance of success, to maintain a clean record and keep her clients out of jail. Whether you are arrested in Oakland, Richmond or anywhere else in Contra Costa County or Alameda County, contact Lynn Gorelick today.