Elder abuse crime is a growing area of concern for prosecutors and police. The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office has a special unit dedicated to aggressively investigating and prosecuting elder abuse charges. If you or a loved one are facing elder abuse charges, please take a moment to read this page.
There are various types of elder abuse prohibited by California law – physical abuse, the infliction of mental suffering, or financial abuse.
If you are charged with financial elder abuse, there are two major elements that the government must prove. In order to convict you, the prosecution must prove each of these facts. Your defense can focus on any one of two issues, or a combination of them.
- Theft – The prosecution must prove that one of the following crimes was committed: theft, embezzlement, forgery, fraud, or identity theft. This may include taking money, an item, or title to a real estate property. Identity theft can also qualify as elder abuse.
- Victim is an Elder or Dependent Adult – The person who owns the stolen property or identity must be an elder or a dependent adult.
Who is an elder?
An elder is someone who is 65-years-old or over.
Who is a dependent adult?
A dependent adult is someone who has physical or mental limitation that interferes with his or her ability to function and to protect his or her rights. For example, this may be someone with a developmental disability. Adults who are housed in inpatient facilities, such as psychiatric or chemical dependency facilities, are generally considered to be dependent.
- Status or Knowledge of the Accused – The person accused of committing this crime must either be a caretaker of the victim or must have known that the victim was an elder or dependent adult. In the alternative, the prosecutor may prove that the accused should have known that the victim was an elder or dependent adult.
Who is a caretaker?
Someone is considered to be a caretaker when he or she is responsible for the care of the elder or dependent adult, has custody or control over the victim, or when he or she occupies a position of trust with the victim.
Defenses To Elder Abuse Charges
A common circumstances in an elder abuse case is one in which an elder adult gives a caretaker or family members valuable property as a gift. Other family members may not like that the elder adult is giving property to certain relatives or to caretakers who are not family and report elder abuse to the police. In cases like this, the issue will often turn on the competence of the elder adult. The prosecution will need to prove that the elder adult was not competent to give away property. This is done through a series of psychological and neurological evaluations. The defense has the right to review the methods and results used by the prosecution to arrive at their results. In some cases, the defense may retain experts to conduct a separate interview of the alleged victims.
In other circumstances, the person accused of elder abuse is not aware that the victim was dependent, or was over 65 years old. For instance, if you did not know who owned the stolen property, you may not have known anything about the owner’s age or mental status. Your attorney may be able to negotiate for a less serious charge by pointing out weaknesses in the prosecutor’s ability to prove the elements described above. Petty theft, for example, carries a lower maximum punishment than elder abuse and would sound less serious on your record.
Misdemeanor or Felony
Elder abuse can be either a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the value of the property that was allegedly taken. If the value is more than $950, the crime is a felony and is punishable by up to 2, 3, or 4 years in state prison, or by probation if the Judge determines that is appropriate under the circumstances. If the value of the stolen property is $950 or less, the crime is a misdemeanor and is punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. The Judge may also order counseling as a condition of probation in these types of cases.
If you are charged with a felony, your attorney may be able to convince the prosecutor or the Judge to reduce the charge to a misdemeanor. This would be a good outcome because a misdemeanor carries a much lower maximum punishment and is less damaging for your record. For example, many job applications do not even ask about misdemeanor convictions. Your attorney may be able to convert your felony charge to a misdemeanor by investigating the actual value of the stolen property and by arguing that it is worth $950 or less.
If you or a loved one are under investigation or have been arrested for elder abuse, please call The Law Offices of Jerod Gunsberg at 310-210-0744 for a Free Consultation