A growing concern in California and throughout the nation involves the neglect and abuse of elders in nursing homes. Nursing home abuse is a crime, both on the state and federal level. According to the California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development, in 2005, one-fifth of the state’s nursing homes did not meet the state-mandated requirements for staffing levels. In addition, the California Department of Health Care Services determined that two-thirds of reported nursing home deficiencies caused, or could have potentially caused, substantial harm to at least one nursing home resident from 2001 to 2005. Over half of all nursing home complaints relate to poor quality of care, and 18 percent of substantiated complaints related to abuse or mistreatment.
These are difficult statistics to overcome. The fact that elder abuse does occur is a reality, but that does not mean that every case of an unhappy nursing home resident points to abuse. If you have been accused of nursing home abuse in California, you may face criminal prosecution. In order to avoid unnecessary or unjust charges, you would be well advised to retain the services of an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Orange County.
California Elder Abuse Laws
According to California Penal Code Section 368, it is illegal for any person who knows, or should reasonably know, that a person is a dependant adult or elder to willfully:
- Cause or allow any dependent adult or elder to suffer;
- Inflict unjustifiable mental suffering or physical pain;
- Cause or allow the health or person of a dependent adult or elder in their care to be injured; or
- Allow a dependent adult or elder in their care to be placed in any situation where their health or person is in danger.
Financial forms of elder abuse, such as embezzlement and fraud, are also punishable by law.
A nursing home abuse suspect may face both civil and criminal consequences. Depending on the circumstances of the case, specifically the level of bodily harm inflicted, a nursing home abuse suspect may face either a misdemeanor or felony charge and the following penalties upon conviction for elder abuse:
- For misdemeanor nursing home abuse offenses, a conviction carries up to one year imprisonment in a county jail and/or a maximum $6,000 fine;
- For felony nursing home abuse offense in which the offender caused severe bodily harm or death to the victim, a conviction carries a state prison sentence of two, three, or four years and/or a maximum $10,000 fine.
Additional penalties include restitution to victims or their families, probation, and even counseling. Depending on the circumstances of the case, additional terms of imprisonment may be ordered.
Defending Your Legal Rights
Although elder abuse does unfortunately occur, it does not mean that you are responsible. If abuse of an elder is suspected, fingers typically point to the regular caregiver of that elder; but being the regular caregiver does not mean you mistreated or abused the elder in any way. Many unlawful arrests are made under the presumption that if abuse is going on, it must be the main caregiver. Cases of mistaken identity are fairly common, as are false allegations. Insufficient or misleading evidence will not stop the prosecution from pursuing a conviction, however. Without the help of an aggressive defense attorney who has experience in nursing home abuse cases, the prosecution will be able to make their case.
At The Law Offices of David Stein, our Irvine criminal defense lawyers have a thorough understanding of California laws and prosecution procedure for nursing home abuse cases. We are more than equipped to defend your legal rights, knowing the most effective defenses against nursing home abuse accusations. To speak to one of our attorneys about your particular case, contact us today at (949) 387-6670.