The elderly, including all individuals over the age of 65, have special legal protections in California. This vulnerable population is often more at risk of abuse than younger people. The court system can hand down harsh penalties for individuals who violate California Penal Code Section 368: Elder Abuse.
You can find out more about the specific acts that fall under the umbrella of California elder abuse right here with Simmrin Law Group. Our legal team can also help you review:
- The results of an elder abuse conviction
- Possible legal defenses for elder abuse accusations
- Charges similar to elder abuse in California
Legally Defining Elder Abuse in California
PC Section 368 defines elder abuse—sometimes called senior abuse—very thoroughly. According to PC Section 368, individuals may face charges of elder abuse if they knowingly and willfully subject someone over the age of 65 to:
- Physical abuse
- Financial abuse
- Mental abuse
Physical abuse can include acts of violence and sexual abuse. Abandonment and neglect of the elderly are also forms of physical abuse in California. Some sources say neglect is the most common form of elder abuse. It can occur if caregivers do not have the time, resources, or training to provide the necessary care that the senior-age adult requires. Those who experience neglect can have mobility impairments or cognitive concerns.
You should be aware that financial abuse can involve taking the funds of an elderly individual using:
Elder abuse charges in California should only apply if the individual carrying out the abuse knew or should have known that the victim of the abuse was over the age of 65. This is not commonly a factor in these cases because family members and caregivers are often those accused of these crimes. However, it could play a role in your defense, depending on the case’s circumstances.
Penalties for an Elder Abuse Conviction in California
Courts may prosecute elder abuse as either a misdemeanor or a felony in California. Prosecutors can assess the facts of a specific case and the criminal history of the accused when deciding whether to use misdemeanor or felony charges. Like other crimes, misdemeanors are generally less serious offenses than felonies.
Based on the specific charges used, an individual could face the following repercussions for a PC Section 368 conviction:
Misdemeanor Elder Abuse Penalties
- Jail time: Up to one year
- Fines: Up to $6,000
This is for a first offense. Note that a second misdemeanor elder abuse conviction can increase these fines to $10,000. Additional jail time might be possible as well, depending on the case.
Felony Elder Abuse Penalties
- Prison time: Up to four years
- Fines: Up to $10,000
As you can see, the penalties for a felony conviction are much harsher than for a misdemeanor. You should be aware that the court system can hand down a subsequent sentence of up to seven years in prison if the elder abuse victim experiences a great bodily injury or if the victim dies.
Examples of Charges Similar to Elder Abuse in California
There are several criminal charges that resemble PC Section 368 or are related charges in California. Many of these acts fall under the state’s laws related to domestic violence. Examples can include:
- California Penal Code Section 187: Murder
- California Penal Code Section 192(b): Involuntary Manslaughter
- California Penal Code Section 242: Battery
- California Penal Code Section 261: Rape
- California Penal Code Section 401: Aiding a Suicide
- California Penal Code Section 484: Petty Theft
- California Penal Code Section 503: Embezzlement
These charges can cover many of the same acts that lead to elder abuse charges. Those who face elder abuse charges could also have one or more of these charges filed against them. However, what sets these charges apart from the elder abuse statute is that courts use them to prosecute individuals regardless of the age of the victims. The penalties for harming a senior over age 65 are more stringent.
Possible Positive Outcomes in Your California Elder Abuse Case
Facing accusations of elder abuse is difficult, especially when the alleged victim is a friend or family member. Working with a criminal defense lawyer familiar with this statute and these cases is the best way to protect your rights and pursue a positive outcome. Better possible outcomes in these cases could include:
- Never facing charges because your attorney presented evidence to the prosecutors
- Facing reduced charges because of a negotiated deal
- Your attorney negotiating a lesser sentence
- Having the charges dropped due to lack of evidence
- Presenting a strong argument in court and getting a “not guilty” verdict
You do not have to try to fight allegations of elder abuse on your own and hope they go away. Instead, we encourage you to connect with a lawyer from our firm who can represent you, advocate for you, and present a strong defense on your behalf.
Possible Legal Defenses for an Elder Abuse Accusation
You may be able to build a strong legal defense if you stand accused of elder abuse in California. You can start reviewing your legal options with a criminal defense lawyer in Los Angeles. Your lawyer can focus on what happened in your case and determine the best approach to show your side of the story. They may be able to build a defense by showing that:
The Senior Did Not Suffer Any Injuries
In some cases, there are no injuries or evidence of abuse. While not all elder abuse causes physical injuries, there must be some evidence that abuse took place. Without evidence of abuse, there is no case against you and no way to show you perpetrated the abuse.
Any Injuries Were Accidental
Sometimes, accidents happen, and they can have serious repercussions. However, you should not face criminal charges under PC Section 368 if you injured an elderly person in an accident. You must act intentionally to face an elder abuse conviction based on this statute. By showing you did not mean to cause injuries, you may not face a conviction or penalties.
They Falsely Accused You of Elder Abuse
You may be dealing with false accusations of elder abuse in California. The elderly sometimes do not intend to make false accusations. If an individual is suffering from dementia or another ailment, they may make false claims without realizing what they are saying.
Sometimes, another party caused the injuries. However, they do not take responsibility for the abuse. Instead, they blame you. They falsely accuse you, and your attorney needs to prove what really happened in court.
In other cases, accidents happen, and a senior’s family member falsely accuses you of causing the injury. This could occur because of a fall or another accidental injury.
There Is Not Enough Evidence Against You
You may stand accused of elder abuse in California without any corroborating evidence. Your lawyer can work to block evidence and may be able to weaken the prosecution’s case. If there is not enough evidence to demonstrate elder abuse occurred and you caused it, the court could even dismiss your case.
Get Help with Elder Abuse Charges from a Criminal Defense Lawyer
Handling California Penal Code Section 368: Elder Abuse charges can be much easier if you have a legal advocate on your side. Simmrin Law Group’s criminal defense lawyers in Los Angeles can start working for you right now. You can contact us by completing our online contact form or calling us.
Take the first step in building a strong defense by reaching out to us for a FREE case evaluation.