Elder abuse is a type of domestic abuse and is a serious crime affecting hundreds of thousands of seniors every year. They are frail and vulnerable, easy targets of neglect, abuse and exploitation. California’s elder abuse laws are in place to punish those who perpetrate these criminal acts. Unfortunately, elder abuse victims are not just the elderly. Some of the victims include those falsely accused of these crimes. Anyone accused of elder abuse needs a domestic violence attorney who understands these laws and how to defend against them.

As Orange County’s leading domestic violence law firm, we have just the right Orange County elder abuse lawyers to help clear your name if you are accused. Marlin G. Stapleton, Jr. and Scott Henry have nearly four decades of experience. Aggressive and knowledgeable with a reputation for excellence, their goal is get you the verdict you want. They begin by helping you understand elder abuse laws and the process from accusation to having your name cleared.

What is Elder Abuse?

Penal Code 368 PC covers the following violations.

  • Physical abuse – This results in physical harm caused by the abuser or suffering caused by the abuser or allowed by the abuser. It may result in death. It is unjustifiable.
  • Emotional abuse – This results in emotional suffering or mental anguish caused by the abuser or allowed by the abuser. It is unjustifiable.
  • Neglect and endangerment – Placing a senior in situations where their health and safety are compromised.
  • Financial exploitation – Includes theft or embezzlement of a senior’s property or identity by the abuser.

Prosecution’s Case

When an accusation is made, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office decides whether it has merit and whether to pursue the case. Prosecutors must prove what is known as elements of the crime, which are as follows:

Misdemeanor Elements of the Crime

  • The accused willfully or with criminal negligence subjected an elderly person to unjustifiable physical harm or mental suffering, or the accused allowed someone else to commit these acts.
  • The accused knew or should have known that the victim was elderly.
  • The conduct of the accused occurred in a situation that may have threatened the health or life of the elderly victim.

Felony Elements of the Crime

  • The accused willfully or with criminal negligence subjected an elderly person to unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering, or the accused allowed someone else to commit these acts.
  • The accused knew or should have known that the victim was elderly.
  • The conduct of the accused occurred in circumstances that were likely to produce great bodily harm or death of the elderly victim.

Our local attorneys could assess your elder abuse case and determine how to best defend against the prosecutor’s case.

Elder Abuse Penalties in Orange County

Prosecutors consider the facts of the case and the criminal history of the defendant when deciding whether to try an elder abuse case as a misdemeanor or felony. Penalties may include the following:

Misdemeanor penalties

  • Informal or summary probation
  • One year in county jail
  • $6,000 fine for the first offense
  • $10,000 fine for subsequent offenses
  • Restitution to the victim
  • Counseling

Felony penalties

  • Formal probation
  • Up to $10,000 in fines
  • Two-to-four years in a California state prison. Three-to-seven more years in prison if the victim suffered great bodily harm or death.
  • Restitution to the victim
  • Counseling

Our Orange County lawyers could help you minimize any penalties you may be facing during your elder abuse case.

Potential Legal Defenses for Elder Violence Accusations

Fighting charges of elder abuse are often challenging because those accused tend to be the caregiver of the supposed victim. The accused and the victim may be related or have a deeper relationship that caregiver and patient. Because many older adults are sick or fragile, they are easier to take advantage of. It is also easy to mistake abuse in a population that bruises easily, is unsteady on their feet and tends to be confused or forgetful.

Your accuser may be the alleged victim who is confused or lying, or it could be someone looking at the situation who thinks abuse is occurring. Sometimes, those who suspect elder abuse don’t consider contributing factors, but your attorney in Orange County will.

  • Accidents – An elderly person in your care may be injured as the result of an accident. For example, if you are helping the patient move and accidentally drop him or her. That is an accident that was not willful or criminally negligent.
  • Falsely Accused – People lie, and people make mistakes. Someone may deliberately try to get you into trouble, or someone may see bruises and assume the worst without knowing the facts.
  • Mistaken identity – Sometimes elder abuse happens and you are falsely accused of committing the crime. The accuser correctly reports the abuse, assuming you are to blame when someone else is actually at fault.
  • Insufficient evidence – Everything boils down to proof. If there is little to no evidence you committed elder abuse, the prosecution can’t win its case. While they point to physical signs of abuse, an expert witness for the defense can show how the injuries are consistent with an accident or illness.
  • An isolated incident

Working with the elderly is often stressful, challenging and physically demanding. Sometimes you hit a breaking point and lash out, and maybe you did commit elder abuse. But, was it intentional or a reaction to something? Does it happen regularly, or was it a one-time event that will never happen again? Convince the judge and jury that your actions were stress-relation because of the situation, and you may gain their sympathy and lesser penalties.

Other Orange County Elder Abuse Offenses

Penal Code 368 is one of several California laws regarding elderly abuse. There are others, which also require a good defense to be acquitted of. They include:

  • Penal Code 242 PC battery – The unlawful and willful use of violence or force on another person.
  • Penal Code 261 PC rape – Having nonconsensual sex with an elderly person through fraud, threats or force.
  • Penal Code 187 PC murder and Penal Code 192 PC involuntary manslaughter – Charged in addition to elder abuse, if committed with malice aforethought or criminal negligence.
  • Penal Code 422 criminal threats – Threatening to harm a senior, making them fear threats of harm or actually causing harm to a senior after threatening them.
  • California domestic violence laws – Elder abuse committed against a spouse, significant other or family member ups the charges to domestic violence. Penalties are harsher.
  • Penal Code 401 PC aiding a suicide – Encouraging or aiding in an elder’s suicide.

Speak with an Orange County Elder Abuse Attorney

As you can see, the state takes elder abuse seriously. If charged, prosecutors may aggressively pursue your conviction. While the burden of proof is on them, it’s up to you to mount a great defense with a great Orange County elder abuse lawyer that will counter the prosecution’s claims.

We are an Orange County criminal defense law firm focused on people accused of domestic violence. Our team has years of experience in elder abuse, domestic violence and other types of cases. We work tirelessly on your behalf to make sure you are not convicted of these charges. Call us to learn more about elder abuse.

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