Under California elder abuse law, it is a crime to willfully cause an elder to suffer physical or mental abuse. And though this may sound clear enough, there are a wide variety of ways either of these types of abuse can take place.
Any individual who cares for an elderly person in a nursing home or assisted living facility is bound by Penal Code 368 PC to uphold high standards of living and prevention of any type of senior abuse. If your loved one has been harmed, the offender may have committed a crime.
The Basics of Penal Code 368 | California Elder Abuse Laws | 368 PC
Anyone who is aged 65 years or older is considered an elder under California elder abuse law. Under these laws, elder abuse can lead to charges in either civil or criminal court. Criminal law specifically focuses on violations of California’s Penal Code 368 PC.
Criminal abuse occurs when someone willfully allows or causes an elder to suffer. This can include the infliction of either mental suffering or physical pain on the elderly person. It is also against the law to allow or put someone in a situation where their health or well-being is in danger.
Unfortunately, there are many ways someone could harm your elderly friend or relative. They could be a caregiver who abandons or deserts the senior citizen. Someone could cause abuse by deliberately isolating the elder from getting any phone calls, guests, or other forms of communication and contact.
Physical abuse may involve injury, molestation, pain, sexual assault, unnecessary use of chemical restraints, or physical restraints. People may inflict mental suffering by causing confusion or fear through harassment, threats, or intimidating behavior. Elder abuse may also involve neglecting the elder’s food, shelter, clothing, or hygiene needs.
California elder abuse law also makes it illegal to wrongfully take the elder’s money or assets. If someone spends the elder’s money without the authority or permission to do so, they can also face disciplinary action. It is also against the law to remove the elder without the consent of the conservator.
California Elder Abuse Statute
Penal Code 368 PC includes all of the different definitions and punishments involving California elder abuse law. For example, the law states anyone who embezzled or stole the elder’s money is breaking the law if the property value is worth more than $950. If they are found guilty, they can face up to “one year county jail and $1,000 fine or state prison 2, 3 or 4 years.”
What is the penalty for elder abuse in California?
The entire list of violations is covered in section b, c, d and e of Penal Code 368 PC. Ultimately, the penalty involved depends on the level of crime committed by the individual.
Section b of the penal code involves inflicting mental suffering or physical pain on an elder. It is against the law for someone to cause or allow conditions likely to cause serious bodily harm or death. When someone does this, they can get a year in jail with a $6,000 fine or be sent to state prison for two to four years.
If the elder suffered from great bodily injury, then the offender can go to jail for three years in cases where the victim is younger than 70. When the victim is 70 years old or older, the suspect can get sent to prison for five years. Meanwhile, the death of the victim can lead to five to seven years in state prison depending on whether the victim is younger than 70 or not.
Section c covers the same kinds of injuries but includes the circumstances that aren’t likely to cause great bodily harm or death. In this case, the crime is classified as a misdemeanor.
Section d and e are both California financial elder abuse laws. In Section d, the law revolves around someone other than the caretaker stealing or embezzling the elder’s property without their knowledge. Section e involves the same kind of violation, but it focuses on caretakers only.
In Section d, the violator can end up in state jail for a year with a $1,000 fine or in state prison for two to four years. If the value of the property is less than $950, then the person can end up getting a $1,000 fine and a year spent in county jail. For caretakers, the potential punishments are the same.
Is elderly abuse a felony?
It depends on if the individual harms the individual physically, mentally or financially and the extent of the harm. For example, California financial elder abuse laws allow a caretaker to be charged with a misdemeanor or felony for embezzling or stealing from the elder.
How to Bring an Action Against Someone Suspected of California Elder Abuse
If you think your family member, friend, or neighbor is a victim of elder abuse or neglect, it is essential that you report it. Elder abuse reporting laws require you to disclose your suspicions to the proper authorities. Today, Assembly Bill 1690 and Assembly Bill 1499 require staff members at elder care facilities to be trained in how to report elder abuse.
Anyone who has full-time or intermittent care for an elder is considered a mandated reporter. If you see a situation that appears to involve abuse or neglect of some kind, you are legally required to report it. Otherwise, you would be violating the California elder abuse mandated reporting laws by looking the other way or keeping it to yourself.
California Adult Protective Services
But in addition to it being the law, reporting elder abuse in California is the right thing to do. If not reported, elder abuse will often continue and escalate to a stage, sometimes even ending with dire consequences. It is always better to err on the side of caution than potentially overlook a potential case of abuse.
Whenever you come across an elder who needs immediate medical care, you should immediately call 9-1-1. Afterward, you can take the next step in reporting elder abuse to California’s Adult Protective Services (APS).
Contacting Adult Protective Services in California
Each county where you need to report California elder abuse will have a different APS office and phone number. These hotlines will help you report any incidents of abuse or neglect and get the help your loved one needs.
- Alameda County: (866) 225-5277
- San Mateo County: (800) 675-8437
- Contra Costa County: (877) 839-4337
- Santa Clara County: (800) 414-2002
- Marin County: (415) 473-2774
- Santa Cruz County: (866) 580-4357
- Napa County: (888) 619-6913
- Solano County: (800) 850-0012
- San Francisco County: (800) 814-0009
- Sonoma County: (800) 667-0404
Report to the California Department of Social Services
Occasionally, people may notice California elder abuse involving in-home care support services. For these cases, you can reach the state’s Department of Social Services IHSS Fraud Hotline at (800) 822-6222. If you prefer, you can make this report anonymously via email or phone.
When the case involves Medi-Cal or Medicare, the Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud & Elder Abuse Hotline will be the ones to contact. You can reach them at (800) 722-0432. They also offer the option to submit a complaint online.
Each county also has a California ombudsman who is responsible for helping people who are suffering from elder abuse. They provide education and assist in recognizing scenarios where there are signs of elder abuse or neglect.
What Happens Next: Fines & Penalties When They’re Convicted
After you report the case to the proper authorities, the case will be opened and investigated. Then, if found guilty, based on their crimes the culprit will be charged with committing a misdemeanor or a felony. If they are convicted, they may face multiple years in prison, as well as monetary fines.
The individual’s custodial sentence can range from a year in county jail to seven years in state prison. Penal Code 368 PC also includes fines ranging from $1,000 to $6,000. The exact fine or custodial sentence depends on how the elder was harmed and the extent of the injury.
California elder abuse law also includes a timeframe in which you can file in civil court. With the California elder abuse statute of limitations, you have two years to file in court. There is an exception to this rule in cases of physical or mental incapacitation and when injuries don’t manifest until after the fact.
Keep in mind, financial crimes have a different statute of limitations in California. Once the financial abuse was discovered or ought to have been discovered, you have four years to file in civil court. If you file before the statute of limitations is up, you may be able to collect damages if the other party is convicted.
Protect Your Loved Ones From Abuse
By reporting potential abuse or neglect, you could save someone’s life. California elder abuse law and Penal Code 368 PC are designed to protect loved ones from physical, mental, or financial harm. When you report potential abuse, you are giving an aging adult a better chance of getting out of their negative situation.
If you or your loved one are experiencing elder abuse, help is available. Please call our offices at (858) 240-9340 or complete the form on this page for a free evaluation.