Are you facing criminal charges for elder abuse in San Diego? A criminal conviction will have life-altering consequences for you and your family, so it is important to defend yourself. Call the Law Office of Vikas Bajaj, APC to learn about how our experienced San Diego elder abuse defense attorneys can help you get the best possible result in your criminal case.
For more than 19 years, we have defended clients just like you against a wide range of serious criminal charges, including those for elder abuse. Our aggressive approach has helped us to successfully negotiate favorable plea deals and, in some cases, get the charges dismissed altogether. We offer prospective clients a free consultation, so do not hesitate to call us today. We will review the charges in your case, explain your rights, and answer your questions.
What is Elder Abuse?
California law broadly defines the crime of elder abuse to include a wide range of behaviors. Generally speaking, if your actions cause an elderly person over the age of 65 to suffer physically, emotionally, and/or financially, you may face criminal charges for elder abuse. California Penal Code Section 368 PC explains that elder abuse occurs when you know that a person is an elder and:
- Willfully cause or permit that elder to suffer,
- Inflict unjustifiable pain or mental suffering, and/or
- Place the elder in a situation where their health is endangered.
Conduct Amounting to Elder Abuse
Penal Code 368 PC covers behaviors that (1) cause or permit suffering, (2) directly inflict suffering, and/or (3) place the elder in harm’s way. As a result, a wide range of behaviors can result in criminal charges for elder abuse. These acts must be committed willfully (on purpose) or with criminal negligence. Behaviors that may be classified as elder abuse include:
- Hitting, punching, or otherwise striking an elderly person,
- Refusing to give an elderly person in your care necessary food and water,
- Repeatedly forgetting or refusing to given an elder prescribed medications,
- Engaging in unwanted touching or forcing sexual conduct with an elderly person,
- Emotionally abusing an elderly person,
- Isolating an elderly person for long periods of time, and
Financial Elder Abuse
Elder abuse does not necessarily have to harm a victim physically or emotionally. The following crimes, when committed against an elderly person, will be classified as financial elder abuse under Penal Code 368(d) PC:
- Forgery, and
While financial elder abuse is a rising problem in California’s nursing homes, elders are not always safe from their own family members. Examples of financial elder abuse include:
- An aide at a nursing home uses a resident’s credit card to make purchases online.
- An adult child who is entrusted with taking care of his mother’s finances empties his elderly mother’s savings account without her permission.
- A nursing care aide steals jewelry belonging to her elderly patient during an in-home visit.
As with other financial crimes, the seriousness of the offense will depend on the value of the property that is stolen. Financial elder abuse involving property valued at $950 or less will be a misdemeanor, while financial elder abuse involving property valued at $950 or more will be a felony.
Consequences of Elder Abuse
Elder abuse can have serious criminal, civil, and collateral consequences.
In California, elder abuse can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. The specific charge will depend on the degree of harm suffered by the elderly victim and your own criminal record.
Misdemeanor Elder Abuse: You will face misdemeanor elder abuse charges if your behavior, resulting in harm to the elderly victim, is classified as willful or criminally negligent. In most situations, misdemeanor charges are brought when you have no prior history of engaging in abusive conduct and the victim suffers relatively minor harms. Misdemeanor elder abuse is punishable by any or all of the following penalties:
- Up to one year in a San Diego County jail,
- $6,000 in criminal fines,
- Summary probation,
- Court-ordered treatment programs, and
Felony Elder Abuse: You will face felony elder abuse charges if your willful or criminally negligent conduct either:
- Causes an elderly victim to suffer unjustifiable pain and suffering, or
- Was likely to produce great bodily harm or death.
Felony elder abuse causing unjustifiable pain and suffering is punishable by 2-4 years in prison. Felony elder abuse causing great bodily harm or death is punishable by 6-11 years in prison.
Once you have been convicted of elder abuse and paid your criminal debt to society you may think that you can get back to your life. However, having a criminal record can make your life incredibly difficult. Employers who are aware of your criminal past may decide to go with other candidates. Landlords may decline your application to rent a home because they don’t want you in the neighborhood. Banks may not trust that you will repay a loan, and therefore refuse to give you a loan. Other collateral consequences of an elder abuse conviction may include:
- Restrictions on which jobs you can hold (education, government, and healthcare jobs are likely off limits);
- Loss of gun ownership privileges;
- Adverse child custody and/or visitation decisions;
- Revocation of professional licenses; and
- Inability to participate in helpful government welfare programs.
If you are accused of elder abuse you can face both criminal and civil charges. The burden of proof in a civil case is much less than in a criminal case, which can make it much easier for a victim to hold you financially responsible for your actions.
Elder Abuse Defenses
When you are accused of elder abuse it is important to use any argument that can explain, excuse, or justify your behavior. The more persuasive your defense, the harder it will be for the prosecution to prove that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If the prosecution doesn’t believe that they have a strong case they may be more open to offering a plea or dropping the charges altogether. The attorneys at the Law Office of Vikas Bajaj, APC will argue any defense that helps to cast doubt on your guilt, including:
- You didn’t act willfully;
- The elderly victim was injured because of an accident;
- You did not know that the victim was elderly;
- You did not intend to hurt the elderly victim;
- You acted in self-defense;
- You have been falsely accused; and/or
- Evidence has been obtained in violation of your rights.
When the state violates your Constitutional rights they should not be allowed to benefit. If we determine that your rights have been violated through an unlawful search, illegal arrest, or improper questioning we will immediately file a motion to suppress any tainted evidence. Stripping the prosecution of this evidence often leaves them without any evidence to support their case. In these situations, prosecutors will be more inclined to strike a deal or drop the charges.
Fighting Elderly Abuse Charges in San Diego
Have you been arrested for elder abuse in San Diego? If you are convicted you could be sentenced to years behind bars, required to pay substantial fines, and forced to endure the harsh reality of having a criminal record. Defending yourself against allegations of elder abuse can limit the chances of these (and other) penalties. Your future is at risk, so it is important to speak with an experienced California elder abuse defense attorney as soon as you can. Call the Law Office of Vikas Bajaj, APC today to schedule a free consultation and find out how we can help you with your criminal case. We will thoroughly review the charges against you, make sure that your rights have not been infringed, and explain how we think your case should be handled.