Crimes against the elderly have been increasingly reported and prosecuted in recent years. Prosecutors in Riverside are now armed with legislation that is tailored to prosecute those who abuse, neglect, or take financial advantage of the elderly or dependent adults.
Prosecuting Elder Abuse
To be convicted of elder abuse in Riverside, the prosecutor must first prove that:
1. You willfully caused or permitted unjustifiable physical or mental pain on the victim;
2. The victim was an elder or a dependent adult; and
3. You knew or reasonably should have known that the victim is an elder or dependent adult.
An elder is anyone who is at least 65 years old. A dependent adult is any adult under the age of 65 who has a physical or mental limitation that restricts his or her ability to carry out normal activities.
Sentencing for Elder Abuse
Elder abuse under Penal Code 368 is a “wobbler” in California, meaning that the prosecutor has the choice to charge this crime as a misdemeanor or a felony. The elder abuse may be a felony if it was committed “under circumstances likely to produce great bodily harm or death”. A felony elder abuse conviction can result in a prison sentence of up to four years and a fine of $6,000.
Elder abuse can also be charged as a misdemeanor under Penal Code 368(c) if the crime was committed “under circumstances other than those likely to produce great bodily harm or death.” If you are convicted of misdemeanor elder abuse, you may be sentenced to up to six months in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
Whether the offense is charged as a misdemeanor or felony will largely depend on the facts and circumstances of your case. Factors that the prosecutor will consider are whether there was a physical injury inflicted upon the victim, the severity of the injury, the age of the victim, and your criminal history. The court may increase the sentence by up to 3 years if the victim suffered great bodily injury. If the victim was 70 years of age or older at the time of the offense and suffered great bodily injury, the court can add an additional four year sentence in county jail.
Defenses to Elder Abuse
An experienced Criminal Defense Attorney can help you by raising several defenses to your elder abuse charges. These defenses include:
Lack of intent
If you did not willfully cause physical or mental pain to the victim, then you may have a defense to your elder abuse charge. Your Wallin & Klarich Elder Abuse Attorney may be able to show that there was an accident and you did not have the intent required for an elder abuse conviction.
Victim was not an elder or dependent adult
The victim must be at least 65 years old or an adult with a physical or mental limitation. It is not unusual for elder abuse charges to be brought against our clients when the victim was neither an elder or dependent adult. You cannot be criminally liable if the victim was not an elder or dependent adult. Also, you cannot be liable if you reasonably believed that the victim was not an elder or dependent adult.
Self-defense or Defense of another
You will not be criminally liable for elder abuse if you were acting in self defense or in defense of another. For example, if the alleged victim was engaging in physically aggressive or violent behavior, you may be able to claim that your actions were done in self-defense.
The Riverside District Attorney’s office has a special unit that is dedicated to specifically prosecuting elder abuse cases in Riverside County. That means that you will need the help of an experienced criminal defense law firm that has experience defending elder abuse cases in Riverside. Wallin & Klarich has been successfully defending those accused of elder abuse for over 30 years. We have offices in Orange County, Los Angeles, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, Victorville, West Covina, Torrance, and Sherman Oaks.
Call us today at (888) 280-6839 or submit our intake form online. We will be there when you call.