Over the past few years, there has been a rise in the occurrence of elder abuse as a form of domestic violence. Law enforcement agencies and prosecutors have allocated greater resources towards the investigation and prosecution of crimes that target older individuals. In California, elder abuse is considered a “wobbler” offense according to Section 368 PC of the Penal Code. This classification allows the prosecutor to choose between filing felony or misdemeanor charges against individuals accused of committing elder abuse.
Elder abuse is unfortunately a widespread issue in California and the rest of the United States. When someone is accused of elder abuse in or near Los Angeles, the consequences can be severe, potentially resulting in substantial incarceration. It is crucial for you or your loved one to seek immediate help from a local criminal defense attorney. Cyrus Tabibnia at Tabibnia Law Firm is here to safeguard your rights and, if required, provide a strong defense in case the matter proceeds to trial.
TYPES OF ELDER ABUSE CALIFORNIA
California law provides vital protection for elders (individuals aged 65 and above), as well as dependent and disabled adults, against numerous types of abuse and neglect. These legal safeguards are outlined in Section 15600 of the California Welfare and Institutions Code. Among the most frequently encountered forms of elder abuse are the following:
- Neglect: Failing to provide necessary assistance with personal hygiene, food, clothing, shelter, and other essential needs that the elderly individual may be unable to fulfill on their own.
- Financial abuse: Engaging in activities such as scams, theft, embezzlement, or fraudulently taking control of the senior’s property through methods like forgery or identity theft.
- Physical abuse: Inflicting harm through actions such as hitting, pushing, or any form of unwanted and harmful contact. It’s worth noting that many elder abuse allegations involve domestic violence situations.
- Sexual abuse: Engaging in non-consensual and forced sexual interactions of any kind with a person aged 65 or older.
- Emotional abuse: Involves acts such as verbal abuse or causing mental suffering, often through tactics like isolating the elderly person and preventing them from having contact with others
In the Los Angeles area, a significant number of elder abuse cases involve defendants who are either family members or caregivers. Caring for an elderly individual is an immense responsibility that many people, particularly family members, may not be adequately prepared for, leading to unfortunate mistakes.
For instance, you might have been entrusted with the care of an elderly family member and found yourself overwhelmed by the demanding obligations, inadvertently neglecting their needs. Alternatively, you could be facing allegations of elder abuse from the senior’s relatives or friends who feel excluded from an inheritance. It’s also important to note that you can be accused of elder abuse even if you didn’t directly cause harm to the elderly individual but allowed abuse to occur without intervening.
Irrespective of the specific circumstances, being found guilty of elder abuse in California can result in severe penalties and punishments. Therefore, it becomes crucial to seek appropriate legal assistance to navigate the legal process and protect your rights if you find yourself facing such accusations.
WHAT ARE THE ELEMENTS OF THE ELDER ABUSE CHARGES (PENAL CODE 368)
For the prosecution in Los Angeles County to obtain a conviction against you, they must present evidence to establish specific elements of the crime. These elements include:
- The alleged victim was at least 65 years old, or you knew or should have known that the victim was at least 65 years old.
- You willfully caused unjustified physical pain or mental suffering to the alleged victim, or you allowed another individual to do so.
- Your conduct had the potential to endanger the health or life of the elder.
The term “willfully” implies that the action was deliberate, while unjustified pain or mental suffering refers to causing any form of unnecessary pain given the circumstances. It’s important to note that it is not necessary for the elder or dependent adult to have actually suffered significant bodily injury; rather, the focus is on whether you placed them in a situation where such harm could have occurred.
If you require more detailed information or assistance, reach out to criminal defense attorney Cyrus Tabibnia in Los Angeles who can provide further guidance specific to your situation.
PENALTIES AND CONSEQUENCES FOR ELDER ABUSE IN CALIFORNIA
The penalties associated with the crime of elder abuse are contingent upon whether the charge is classified as a felony or a misdemeanor.
- If convicted of a misdemeanor, potential consequences include a maximum sentence of one year in jail, a fine of up to $6,000, restitution payments, and informal probation.
- On the other hand, if convicted of a felony, the penalties can include a prison term of up to four years, a fine of up to $10,000, mandatory counseling, restitution obligations, and formal probation.
The determination of whether the charge is filed as a felony or misdemeanor often hinges on the specific circumstances of the incident, such as the extent of harm inflicted, as well as your criminal history, including prior offenses. This flexibility in charging is commonly referred to as a “wobbler.”
According to California law, an individual is classified as a caretaker if they bear the responsibility of caring for an elder or dependent adult, have custody or control over them, or hold a position of trust with the victim.
In cases where you are identified as a caregiver for an elder or dependent adult, the prosecutor must establish that while you were responsible for their care or custody, you negligently and willfully caused their injuries or placed them in a hazardous situation that was likely to result in harm. It is important to note that an elder adult, as defined in this context, refers to an individual who is at least 65 years old.
It is essential to recognize that regardless of the charge classification, the potential consequences can be significant, including substantial jail time, financial penalties, and restitution payments to the victim. Therefore, seeking legal assistance becomes crucial to understand your rights and options in such cases.
WHAT ARE THE POTENTIAL DEFENSES FOR ELDER ABUSE CHARGES?
An experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorney who possess a range of legal defense strategies tailored to specific circumstances. These strategies may include:
- Accidental injury: In certain cases, our attorney can argue that the injury to the alleged victim was unintentional, emphasizing that there was no intent to cause harm.
- False allegation: There have been instances where individuals have been wrongly accused of elder abuse. Our lawyers can work to establish that the allegations are false, highlighting instances where the alleged victim intentionally lied or exhibited physical or mental symptoms that may have been mistaken for neglect or physical abuse. We can present evidence showing the lack of substantial supporting evidence for the allegations.
- Self-defense: In certain situations, our criminal defense lawyers can build a defense based on self-defense or defense of another person. There have been cases where elderly or dependent individuals become physically aggressive, posing a threat to your own safety. We can argue that you used necessary and immediate force to protect yourself or others from harm, without employing excessive force beyond what was required.
These defense strategies aim to challenge the prosecution’s case and protect your rights. By thoroughly examining the specific circumstances, our attorney can determine the most appropriate approach to build a strong defense on your behalf.
If you are not a citizen of the United States, a conviction for elder abuse (PC 368) may have negative consequences for your immigration status. Contact an immigration attorney for further guidance. The Tabibnia Law Firm can also refer you to an excellent immigration lawyer if you require one.
CALL LOS ANGELES ELDER ABUSE DEFENSE LAWYER CYRUS TABIBNIA
If you are facing charges of elder abuse, first understand the gravity of the situation. Mr. Cyrus Tabibnia as a Los Angeles Domestic Violence defense attorney is here to support you during this challenging time. Whether you are currently under investigation or have already been arrested for elder or dependent abuse, He can provide the assistance you need. With his expertise and dedication, he strives to make a meaningful difference in the outcome of your case. Please contact him for the guidance and representation you deserve.