Work with an Elder Abuse Attorney Who Can Provide a Strong Case in Your Defense
In the state of California, crimes against the elderly and dependent adults get special protection. The reasoning is valid: these are people who are likely to be mentally or physically impaired and therefore unable to protect themselves as well as others. However, no matter how well intentioned these laws might have been, they can lead to overly aggressive prosecution of anyone accused of elder abuse.
If you are facing charges or accusations of elder abuse, then you need an attorney who can help you. It is never too early to call – the sooner we can get to work for you, the better your chances are likely to be. Contact Simmons Wagner, LLP now to request a consultation.
The Basics of Elder Abuse Laws
Any person who willfully causes or permits unjustified mental suffering or physical pain to an elder adult can be found guilty of elder abuse. The law considers anyone aged 65 or older to be an elder. The same law that protects elders also protects adults of any age who are unable to care for themselves and therefore dependent adults.
The elements required to prove elder abuse are partially dependent on the relationship of the defendant to the elder:
- A person who is neither a caregiver nor custodian of the elder adult must be proven to have been willful or intentional in their alleged abuse.
- A caregiver or custodian of the elder or dependent adult (for example, a nursing home employee) must have taken action that was either willful or criminally negligent. If a caregiver does not provide normal standards of care when treating for their elderly patients, this can be considered negligent.
Examples of Defense Options Against Charges of Elder Abuse
There is no cookie cutter defense option for charges of elder abuse. However, there are some defense options that are used more commonly than others. They include:
- Showing a lack of intent. The law holds that a person must have acted willfully. If we can prove that this is not true, or that the prosecution has not proven that it is true, then your case could be dismissed.
- The action was not criminally negligent or willful. If you were in fact acting with reasonable care, and you were not criminally negligent, then we will argue this to the judge and/or jury.
- The victim is not covered by elder abuse laws. While the actions might have been a crime if they were against a person of any age, if they were not yet 65 or otherwise covered by elder abuse laws, then you should not face elder abuse punishment.
- You did not know the victim was covered by elder abuse laws. If you reasonably believed that the alleged victim was not yet 65, and no reason to believe they were otherwise covered by elder abuse laws, then the charges could be dismissed.
- You were defending yourself or another person. It is legal to defend yourself and others by whatever means are reasonably necessary to do so. To prove this, you must prove that you reasonably believed you (or another person) was in immediate danger of great bodily injury, that you believed force was necessary to prevent that threat, and that you did not use more force than was necessary.
While these are some of the most common examples of elder abuse defense, we will customize your defense based on your specific needs. If there is a wealth of evidence against you, then we will fight for the most lenient plea deal possible.
Potential Penalties for an Elder Abuse Conviction
Elder abuse is a wobbler offense, which means the prosecution can decide if they want to charge it as a misdemeanor or a felony, based on the specifics of the alleged crime and the criminal background of the accused.
A misdemeanor conviction can lead to:
- Up to one year in jail
- Fines of up to $6,000
A felony conviction can result in:
- Two, three, or four years in county jail
However, there are numerous elder abuse sentencing enhancements that often apply. They include:
- Great bodily injury to the victim. If the victim sustained great bodily injury, then the court will add three years if the victim was under 70 years old, or four additional years if the victim was older than 70.
- The victim did not survive. If the victim was killed due to the abuse, then five extra years are added to the sentence if the victim was under 70 years old, and seven additional years if the victim was older than 70.
- Felony strike. If either of the two above enhancements apply, then it will also be counted as strike under California’s Three Strikes Law.
Get Legal Help Right Away
We know that facing these charges can be frustrating, embarrassing, and scary. The best way to move forward is to talk to a criminal defense attorney. You can contact Simmons Wagner, LLP at (949) 439-5857. We will cover your case, determine your options, and give an honest appraisal of your best defense.