Over the past several decades the elderly population in the United States has grown tremendously. One reason for this is that the average life expectancy of an American has almost doubled in the last 100 years. There are currently over 40 million people over the age of 65 living in the United States. By the year 2050 that figure is expected to double. In fact, experts predict that by the year 2050 the number of older Americans will outnumber their younger counterparts (21 and younger) for the first time in history. Unfortunately, the increasing number of older Americans has resulted in an increase in elder abuse. If you have been arrested for elder abuse in California you should understand the offense and the potential penalties.
Statistics tell us that incidences of elder abuse are on the rise; however, it is very difficult to ascertain the true rate at which the elderly are victimized because elder abuse is thought to be significantly under-reported. Some studies conclude that as many as two out of every five elder Americans is abused each year. As an answer to the growing concern about elder abuse, many states have enacted laws specifically addressing offenses that include an elderly victim. California is one of those states.
An elderly individual can be a victim in any type of crime from sexual battery to theft. California, however, has also passed laws that are aimed specifically at crimes of elder abuse. Penal Code § 368(b)(1)(2)(3) for example, makes the following a crime:
- A person, under circumstances or conditions likely to produce great bodily harm or death, willfully causes or permits an elder or dependent adult to suffer
- With knowledge that he or she is an elder or dependent adult
- Unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering
If convicted, a defendant faces a year in the county jail or two, three, or four years in state prison. If the victim suffers great bodily harm the defendant faces an addition three years in state prison if the victim was under age 70 and an additional five years if the victim is over age 70. In the same section, Penal Code § 368(d) makes it a crime to commit theft or embezzlement when the victim is elderly or a dependent adult. If the amount taken exceeds $950 the potential penalty is one year in county jail or two, three, or four years in prison.
California has been a pioneer in recognizing the victimization of senior citizens and creating legislation to address that trend. If you have been charged with a crime and the alleged victim is an elderly individual you should consult with an experienced San Diego criminal defense attorney to be certain you understand what is at stake in your case.
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