When you hear or read the phrase “elder abuse,” you likely think of a physical attack or neglect against a senior citizen. While violence is one type of abuse, it is only one of many different behaviors that can lead to a criminal charge for elder abuse.
What many people do not realize is that elder abuse can also be a financial crime. You can be charged with elder abuse for stealing from an elderly person or dependent adult, or even for mismanaging or neglecting the personal finances of an elderly person in your care.
Under California Penal Code section 368(d) and (e), elder abuse includes theft, embezzlement, or other financial fraud or identity theft committed against any person age 65 or older (or anyone aged 18 to 64 who is defined as a “dependent” adult1). Financial elder abuse could be anything from a simple theft of cash or jewelry to more complicated schemes designed to swindle an elderly person out of his or her retirement income or other property.
Relationships to the Victim are Important in Financial Elder Abuse Cases
If you are charged with financial elder abuse in California, your relationship to the alleged victim will affect your case. If you are not a caregiver or custodian of the elder adult, the prosecution must show that you acted willfully or intentionally. This means that you must have intentionally or purposefully targeted the property or finances of the alleged victim.
However, if you are someone who is entrusted as a caregiver or custodian of the elder adult, such as a nursing home employee or a family member who cares for the needs of the adult, the prosecution must show that your behavior was willful or criminally negligent. Under that standard, your acts only need to be proven to fall below normal standards of care in treating and caring for the elderly. It is much easier for a prosecutor to prove that your conduct was negligent than it is to prove it was intentional.
Regardless of your relationship to the alleged victim, you must be careful when dealing with the finances of elderly persons because the police and sheriff’s departments are not the only parties investigating potential financial elder abuse. California law requires financial institutions such as banks and credit unions to report suspected financial elder abuse. If such an institution fails to report suspected abuse, it can be subject to fines of up to $5,000.2 This means financial institutions have an incentive to pay closer attention to transactions involving the accounts of the elderly and dependent adults.
Severe Penalties for Financial Elder Abuse
Because elderly and dependent adults are more vulnerable to financial crimes, violations of PC 368(d) and (e) are punished severely. This crime can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. If you are convicted of a misdemeanor, you may be sentenced to up to 364 days in county jail and a maximum fine of $1,000.
If you are convicted of felony financial elder abuse, you could be ordered to serve two, three, or four years in state prison and pay a fine of up to $10,000. In addition, a felony conviction for financial elder abuse is considered a “strike” for purposes of California’s “three strikes” law, if the crime involved a burglary (Penal Code section 459).
Contact the Elder Abuse Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich Right Away
Financial elder abuse is one of the most serious crimes in California. The law protects elderly individuals, which is why you need to speak to an experienced elder abuse attorney right away if you are accused of this crime.
At Wallin & Klarich, our team of experienced attorneys has been diligently working to defend people like you against financial elder abuse charges for more than 35 years. We work hard to ensure our clients receive the best possible outcome in their cases. Our knowledgeable attorneys can help you now.
With offices in Orange County, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Bernardino, Riverside, Torrance, West Covina, Victorville and Ventura, there is an experienced Wallin & Klarich criminal defense attorney available to help you no matter where you are located.
Contact our offices today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free, no-obligation phone consultation. We will get through this together.
1.Under this law, a dependent adult is someone between the ages of 18 and 64 who has physical or mental limitations that restrict his or her ability to carry out normal activities or to protect his or her rights. href=”#ref1″>↩
2. See Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 15630.1.href=”#ref2″>↩