JEFFREY R. WOOD
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Sacramento & Placer County Elder Abuse Attorney
California law offers special protections for the elderly and the disabled. These laws are a way to help people who may not be able to protect themselves from harm. California Penal Code Section 368 explains that elderly and disabled adults deserve special protections because they, like children, “may be confused, on various medications, mentally or physically impaired, or incompetent.” These special conditions make the elderly and the disabled more vulnerable to criminal attacks. Laws prohibiting elder abuse help to protect the vulnerable and punish those who take advantage of them.
What is Elder Abuse?
Elder abuse occurs when an elderly and/or disabled person is the victim of physical, emotional, or financial abuse or neglect. An elderly person is anyone who is over the age of 65. A dependent adult is a person between the ages of 18 and 64 whose physical and/or mental limitations restrict their ability to live a normal life. Elder abuse can occur in many places, including private homes, hospitals, nursing homes, and retirement communities.
The following behaviors are explicitly listed as violations of California’s elder abuse laws under 368 PC:
Inflicting unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering;
Causing unjustifiable pain and suffering to be inflicted;
Allowing a person under your supervision to inflict unjustifiable pain and suffering;
Causing or allowing an elderly person in your care to suffer injuries;
Causing or allowing an elderly person in your care to be placed in harm’s way; and
Gross negligence resulting in the harm to an elderly or dependent adult.
With the exception of gross negligence, these acts must be committed willfully. Put in simpler terms, any act that you do intend to do, or do on purpose, is done willfully. Injuries that are the result of an accident or negligent are not considered willful acts.
Examples of physical or emotional elder abuse may include:
Hitting, striking, or punching an elderly person.
Allowing a nursing home resident to go without food and/or water for extended periods of time.
Intentionally failing to administer necessary medications.
Pushing a disabled adult.
Failing to report or stop abusive conduct.
Repeatedly belittling, yelling at, and reprimanding a person over 65.
You can face criminal charges for elder abuse if you harm an elderly or dependent adult, or if you allow an elderly or disabled adult under your care to be harmed.
Financial Elder Abuse
California’s elder abuse laws not only protect the elderly from physical and emotional harm, but from financial harms, as well. Penal Code 368 PC defines financial harms as:
Acts of theft, embezzlement, forgery, fraud, or identity theft,
With respect to the property or personal identifying information of an elderly or dependent adult;
With knowledge that the victim is an elderly or dependent adult.
Under 368 PC, you will face harsh penalties if you commit a financial crime if you knew (or should have reasonably known) that the victim was elderly and/or disabled.
Examples of financial elder abuse include using the elderly's credit card, knowingly performing sub-par work to take their money, being the caretaker and 'helping yourself' to some of their valuables or money.
Penalties for Elder Abuse in California.
Elder abuse can be a misdemeanor or a felony in the Sacramento area counties. The specific charge will depend on the extent of the harm suffered by the elderly victim and your history of criminal behavior.
Misdemeanor Elder Abuse
You will be charged with misdemeanor elder abuse if your willful or criminally negligent conduct endangered the life, well-being, or safety of an elderly or dependent adult. Misdemeanor elder abuse is punishable by a maximum sentence including one year in jail, fines, restitution to your elderly victim, probation, and court-ordered treatment programs.
Felony Elder Abuse
You will be charged with felony elder abuse if your willful or criminally negligent conduct causes an elderly person to suffer unjustifiable pain and suffering or was likely to produce great bodily injury or death. Felony elder abuse is punishable by two to four years in a prison, $10,000 in criminal fines, restitution to your elderly victim, formal probation, and court-ordered treatment programs. If your willful or criminally negligent conduct causes an elderly or dependent to suffer great bodily injury or death, you will face an additional three to seven years in prison.
Financial Elder Abuse
Penalties for financial elder abuse will depend on (1) whether you are classified as a caretaker and (2) the value of the property that is stolen. Penal Code 368 PC defines a caretaker as “any person who has the care, custody, or control of, or who stands in a position of trust with, an elder or a dependent adult.”
If the value of the property taken is less than $950: Misdemeanor punishable by one year in jail and $1,000 in fines.
If the it is more than $950: Felony punishable by one year in a county jail and $2,500 in fines or two, three, or four years in a California state prison and $10,000 in fines.
The penalties will generally be aggravated for caretakers who abuse their position of authority and power.
Call Attorney Jeff Wood for Immediate Legal Assistance.
If you have been accused of an act of elder abuse in Sacramento, Placer, Yolo, El Dorado or Nevada county, you have the right to defend yourself. The best way to defend any criminal charges, including those for elder abuse, is by hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney to argue legal defenses on your behalf. Make sure your rights are protected and you get the best defense possible.