Many Americans are at a time in their lives when they may require assistance with simple everyday functions. Many are fortunate to have beloved family members helping them while others must rely on professional help. Any situation where an elderly person is under the care and responsibility of another creates a duty. It also provides the potential for breach of this duty or violation of the criminal code of the State of California. The crime of elder abuse in California may involve many different types of criminal conduct.
California Penal Code § 368 governs the criminal offense of elder abuse and applies to any victim 65 years of age or older. The damage or harm caused by the behavior of the accused may be physical, emotional, or financial. PC 368 states:
“person who knows…that a person is an elder or dependent adult and who…willfully causes or permits any elder or dependent adult to suffer, or inflicts thereon unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering… [is guilty of a crime].”
Penal Code § 368 PC, makes it a crime to inflict or commit any of the following actions:
- Physical abuse,
- Emotional abuse,
- Endangerment, or
- Financial fraud.
Examples of elder abuse:
- Verbally abusing or ridiculing an elderly person.
- Failing to provide correct medication to an elderly person.
- Failing to feed an elderly person unable to provide self-care.
- Fraudulently convincing an elderly person to appoint a certain sole beneficiary in the elder person’s will or estate plan.
Elder abuse is considered a “wobbler” crime under California law. A “wobbler” is neither a misdemeanor nor a felony, it may be either. A wobbler is a crime that prosecutors may charge, and judges may sentence, as either a misdemeanor or a felony. A misdemeanor conviction is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for up to one year. A felony conviction is punishable by custody in state prison for up to four years. Instead of jail time, a judge may award either summary (misdemeanor) probation, or formal (felony) probation.
There are certain sentencing enhancements if a victim of elder abuse suffers great bodily injury or dies. Defendants receive an additional term in the state prison of three years if the victim is under 70 years of age, and five years if the victim is 70 years of age or older. If in the commission of elder abuse, the defendant proximately causes the death of the victim, the defendant receives an additional term of five years if the victim is under 70 years of age; or seven years if the victim is 70 years of age or older.
Hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney is crucial to defend any criminal charge. The advice, guidance, and representation of experienced criminal defense counsel may be crucial to achieving the best possible result in any criminal matter. John Patrick Dolan has forty years of criminal defense experience. Contact Dolan Law Offices today at 760-775-3739 or 562-824-4007 to discuss your situation or find out more online here.