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Elder Abuse FAQs

What is the statute of limitations for an elder abuse charge?

It depends. For a charge of elder abuse that does not involve any type of theft or embezzlement, Penal Code section 801.6 controls and allows the charge to be brought within five years from the date of the offense. For elder abuse charges involving theft or embezzlement, Penal Code section 803(c)(11) controls and provides that the statute of limitations is five years from the date the theft or embezzlement is discovered, which as a practical matter can result in much longer statute of limitations period.

Who is covered by the elder abuse statute?

An elder is defined as anyone who is 65 years of age or older. The statute also protects “dependent adults” between the ages of 18 and 64 who have physical or mental limitations that restrict their ability to carry out normal activities or to protect their rights.

Who can be charged with elder abuse?

Anyone can be charged, but the statute specifically targets “caretakers” of elders. A caretaker is defined under the statute as anyone who “has the care, custody, or control of, or who stands in a position of trust with, an elder or a dependent adult.

What types of conduct can be charged as elder abuse?

Penal Code section 368 is the main statute that discusses elder abuse. It contains several types of conduct that can serve as the basis of a charge of elder abuse:

  • Willful neglect
  • Inflicting physical harm or suffering on an elder
  • Placing an elder in a situation that could result in great bodily injury or death
  • Permitting the health of an elder to be jeopardized
  • General neglect
  • Committing theft, fraud, embezzlement or otherwise taking financial advantage of an elder
  • False imprisonment of an elder through the use of force, menace, fraud or violence

Enhanced penalties can be imposed if the elder in fact suffers great bodily injury or dies from the abuse.

What is APS?

APS stands for Adult Protective Services. APS is a government agency created by statute that functions much like the Department of Children Services does for cases involving minors. APD receives and investigates allegations of elder abuse and often works in conjunction with local law enforcement agencies. APS has the right to refuse to tell you who initiated the investigation while the investigation is still ongoing.

What are the punishments for elder abuse?

They vary widely depending on whether the charge is a misdemeanor or a felony, and whether certain aggravating factors are present. The maximum penalty for a misdemeanor charge is one year in county jail. If the charge is filed as a felony, the maximum penalty can be anywhere from 4 years in state prison (or in certain circumstances 4 years in county jail) to as much as 11 years in state prison, again depending on the existence of aggravating factors. Naturally with such severe penalties at stake it will be very important for a defendant to have a skilled elder abuse defense attorney on the case.