Imagine you are at the park on a weekend afternoon, enjoying a picnic with your family. A few yards away, you see a man yelling at a woman, calling her “stupid” and “worthless” while she cries. He does not touch her, but his constant shouting and insulting behavior continues for several minutes.
What you have seen could be described as emotional abuse. Is this a crime?
What is Emotional Abuse?
Emotional abuse is any behavior that helps the abuser emotionally dominate and control the victim. Frequent put-downs, constant criticism, name-calling, and insults are all examples of emotionally abusive behavior. While those behaviors are not considered criminal acts, they can be used as evidence of other criminal acts.
Emotional Abuse Can Lead to Criminal Charges
The word “abuse” tends to make people think of criminal behavior, but emotional abuse itself is not a crime in California. However, depending on who the victim is and the nature of the abuse, there are ways that emotional abuse can become part of a crime.
For instance, if the abuse includes threats that are severe enough to place the victim in a reasonable state of fear for his or her safety, the accused abuser could face charges for making a criminal threat under Penal Code Section 422.
If the abusive behavior includes constant harassment and following the victim, you could be charged with stalking under Penal Code Section 646.9.
You could also be charged with making annoying phone calls under Penal Code Section 653m if your emotional abuse involves repeated annoying or harassing phone calls or calls or electronic communication where you used obscene language or threats of injury.
If the emotional abuse is due to conduct directed at a minor child, you could be charged with child endangerment under Penal Code Section PC 273a. This law makes it illegal to inflict unjustifiable mental suffering on a minor.
In addition, emotional abuse can be a crime if is directed at certain types of people. One of the most common emotional abuse crimes is elder abuse, which is a crime under Penal Code Section 368. In many elder abuse cases, the victim, who is 65 years old or older, is constantly ridiculed or is isolated from others. Elder abuse might take the form of withholding medication or food, or preventing the elderly person from contacting others.
Similarly, emotional abuse is also a crime when it is directed at a dependent adult. A dependent adult is someone between the ages of 18 and 64 who has certain mental or physical disabilities that keep him or her from being able to do normal activities or protect him or herself.
Evidence of Emotional Abuse
Cases involving emotional abuse can be difficult because the abuse leaves no physical evidence. However, social workers and investigators are trained to look for symptoms of past abuse, such as withdrawn behavior, depression, frequent anger, skittishness, picking fights, substance abuse, eating disorders and other self-abuse. In children, this can include frequently “acting out.”
Contact the Criminal Defense Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich Today
If you or someone you love is falsely accused of a crime involving emotional abuse, you should contact a skilled criminal defense attorney at Wallin & Klarich immediately. Our skilled and knowledgeable attorneys have more than 35 years of experience successfully defending clients facing criminal charges. Let us help you now.
With offices in Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Los Angeles, San Diego, West Covina, Torrance, and Victorville, there is an experienced and skilled Wallin & Klarich criminal defense attorney available to help you no matter where you are located.
Contact our offices today at (888) 280-6839 for a free phone consultation. We will get through this together.