Elder abuse laws in California have evolved over the years to provide the same special legal protections for elderly individuals and dependent adults as for children, and the penalties associated with an elder abuse conviction are steep. Under California law, being convicted on charges of elder abuse carries significant penalties, including jail time and thousands of dollars in fines, plus other consequences, such as restitution to the victim and mandatory counseling. If you or a loved one has been charged with Los Angeles elder abuse, it is important to hire a criminal defense attorney with experience defending clients against elder abuse charges. With our legal team at Criminal Defense Attorney Los Angeles on your side, you can significantly improve your chances of obtaining a favorable outcome in your case.
Affordable Elder Abuse Defense Attorney in Los Angeles
If you have been arrested for elder abuse, the charges against you may seem insurmountable, but that is often not the case. Our Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys have extensive experience defending clients against accusations of California elder abuse and have the skills and resources necessary to develop a solid defense strategy in your case. We will do everything in our power to prove your innocence, including interviewing witnesses, obtaining video surveillance, doing background checks and collecting any other evidence in support of your innocence. Our legal team is intimately familiar with California elder abuse laws and we understand the importance of protecting your rights and reputation against false accusations of elder abuse. Contact Criminal Defense Attorney Los Angeles today for a free initial consultation.
The term “elder abuse” refers to the physical, emotional or financial abuse of elderly individuals or dependent adults, or any other harsh treatment that causes elders to suffer physical and/or mental pain and suffering. California’s elder abuse laws cover a wide variety of criminal offenses carried out against a group of individuals the legal system considers to be generally less able to protect themselves and/or to understand or report criminal conduct. Under California Penal Code § 368 PC, elder abuse can include any of the following types of abuse directed at anyone who is 65 years of age or older, regardless of his or her mental or physical abilities:
- Physical abuse – Physical contact causing injuries, such as pushing, shoving or kicking; deliberately administering extra doses of medication; ignoring chronic health problems
- Neglect and endangerment – Deliberately neglecting to provide for basic comfort, safety, emotional, nutritional or health care needs
- Emotional abuse – Behavior that causes psychological trauma but does not involve physical injury, such as threats, embarrassment, ridicule, insults or manipulative behavior
- Sexual abuse – Rape, inappropriate touching, sexual harassment, indecent assault or any unwanted sexual behavior
- Financial abuse or exploitation – Stealing money or valuables; improperly accessing personal financial records; forging signatures
Perhaps the most common location of Los Angeles elder abuse is in nursing homes or assisted living facilities, where elderly and incapacitated residents are vulnerable to abuse and mistreatment by negligent staff members, but the criminal offense can involve any person over the age of 65, regardless of where he or she resides and who his or her caregivers are. Some examples of scenarios that could lead to charges of California elder abuse include: a nursing home staff member sexually molesting an elderly resident, an adult daughter intentionally withholding medication she is supposed to give to her elderly father, and a man taking advantage of his elderly aunt by stealing her Social Security checks.
Conviction for Elder Abuse Penal Code § 368 PC
The elderly are considered one of society’s most vulnerable groups and with increasing pressure to minimize the consequences of elder abuse and mistreatment, crimes against elderly individuals are punished harshly in California. If you are facing charges of California elder abuse, believe that the prosecution will do everything in their power to get a conviction. It is up to your criminal defense attorney to anticipate the prosecutor’s argument and come up with the best way to challenge it. In order to convict on charges of misdemeanor elder abuse in Los Angeles, the prosecution is tasked with proving certain elements of the criminal offense, including that:
- The defendant willfully or with criminal negligence either (a) personally inflicted unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering upon an elder, or (b) allowed another person to do so;
- The defendant knew or should have known that the alleged victim was an elder; and
- The behavior occurred under circumstances that could have threatened the life or health of the elder (misdemeanor) or that were likely to cause great bodily injury or death (felony).
Penalties for an Elder Abuse Conviction
Elder abuse is considered a violent crime and prosecutors punish such crimes rather aggressively, levying harsh penalties against those convicted of the offense. Under California Penal Code § 368 PC, elder abuse is a “wobbler” offense, which means it can be prosecuted as either a misdemeanor or felony, with different penalties for each. This is typically decided by the prosecutor and the decision is based on the circumstances of the case and the defendant’s criminal record. As a misdemeanor offense, California elder abuse is punishable by up to one year in county jail and/or up to $6,000 in fines (or up to $10,000 for second or subsequent offenses). As a felony offense, the crime is punishable by two to four years in state prison and/or up to $10,000 in fines. If the victim suffers great bodily injury or death, an additional and consecutive three- to seven-year sentence could be added to the punishment, as well as a potential strike under California’s “Three Strikes” law, which imposes longer sentences on certain repeat offender convicted of serious or violent felonies. Additional penalties for a misdemeanor or felony Los Angeles elder abuse conviction may include restitution to the victim and/or mandatory counseling.
Connection Between Elder Abuse and Domestic Violence
The crimes of elder abuse and domestic violence are sometimes similar in nature, but there are important distinctions between the two, namely that domestic violence traditionally involves abuse committed against someone intimately related to the victim, while the only requirement for elder abuse is that the victim is over the age of 65. However, if you are charged with California elder abuse and the alleged victim is your spouse, significant other, domestic partner, cohabitant, parent, grandparent or roommate, you could be prosecuted for domestic violence under California Penal Code § 273.5 PC corporal injury on a spouse or cohabitant, or Penal Code § 243(e)(1) PC domestic battery. Not only can a domestic violence conviction adversely impact your relationship with your loved ones, it can also increase the maximum penalties typically associated with elder abuse. Some other offenses related to elder abuse include Penal Code § 242 PC battery, Penal Code § 261 PC rape, Penal Code § 187 PC murder, Penal Code § 192 PC involuntary manslaughter and Penal Code § 422 PC criminal threats.
Defenses to Elder Abuse Charges
Because the very nature of the crime of elder abuse means the alleged victim is elderly, the likelihood of wrongful charges being brought is automatically increased. In some cases, the alleged victim may be confused, mistaken or intentionally lying about the abuse and in other cases, false charges may occur because the symptoms of certain diseases and medical conditions that commonly occur among ill, elderly individuals may mimic the signs of abuse or neglect. Furthermore, because police, social workers, healthcare providers and other professionals are required to report suspected abuse, and could face their own criminal charges if they fail to, false accusations of elder abuse and wrongful arrests are more common than you might think. Fortunately, there are a number of legal defenses to elder abuse charges a criminal defense attorney can present on your behalf to have your charges reduced or dismissed, including:
- Mistaken identity
- Insufficient evidence
- False accusations
- No abuse occurred
- The injury was the result of an accident
- The abuse was an isolated incident
Hiring an Experienced Elder Abuse Defense Attorney in Los Angeles
California elder abuse law is complex, and cases of suspected abuse are typically emotionally charged. Defendants suspected of elder abuse are often family members or caregivers to the alleged victims, a factor that makes such charges even more complicated and devastating for everyone involved. Unfortunately, elder abuse is also an area of the law that is rife with false accusations and wrongful arrests, which is why it is so important to have someone on your side who is familiar with the California criminal justice system and the intricacies of elder abuse law, to represent your interests in court. If you have been charged with or are being investigated for Los Angeles elder abuse, contact our defense lawyers at Criminal Defense Attorney Los Angeles today to discuss your legal options. Our knowledgeable elder abuse defense attorneys can protect your rights and help you clear your name once and for all.