Palm Springs, California is home to a large population of retirees and seniors. Crimes against Palm Springs seniors are treated with particular harshness under California law - and by the Riverside County District Attorney's office.
Special provisions in California's criminal law are focused on the physical, financial, and emotional harm done to seniors. A Palm Springs elder abuse conviction comes with stiff penalties beyond those for similar offenses against younger adults.
The reasons for this focus on crimes against seniors were specifically expressed by the state's lawmakers in California's primary elder abuse law, Penal Code Section 368:
The Legislature finds and declares that crimes against elders and dependent adults are deserving of special consideration and protection, not unlike the special protections provided for minor children, because elders and dependent adults may be confused, on various medications, mentally or physically impaired, or incompetent, and therefore less able to protect themselves, to understand or report criminal conduct, or to testify in court proceedings on their own behalf.
Physical or Emotional Abuse
The physical or emotional abuse of Palm Springs seniors can be prosecuted either as a felony or a misdemeanor depending on the nature of the abuse and the seriousness of the harm done. Penal Code Sections 368(b) and 368(c).
To be convicted of felony elder abuse, prosecutors must prove that:
- you willfully or with criminal negligence either (a) personally subjected an elder to unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering or (b) allowed another person to do so,
- your conduct occurred under circumstances that were likely to produce great bodily injury or death, and
- you knew or reasonably should have known that the alleged victim was an elder (i.e., a person 65 years of age or older).
The distinction between felony elder abuse and misdemeanor elder abuse is in that second element. If the alleged conduct was likely to endanger the health of the elder, rather than likely to result in great bodily injury or death, it can be prosecuted as a California misdemeanor.
Note that the abuse that can get you convicted is not only willful and intentional acts, but those committed with “criminal negligence.”
Palm Springs Elder Abuse Penalties
If you are convicted of felony elder abuse in Palm Springs pursuant to Section 368(b), the consequences can be severe, especially if the senior suffered “great bodily injury” or death or was over 70 years old. The penalties for a felony elder abuse conviction are:
- imprisonment in a county jail for up to one year, or
- a fine of up to $6,000, or
- by both that fine and imprisonment, or by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three, or four years.
If the abuse resulted in “great bodily injury,” the penalties set forth above are supplemented by additional time in a state prison. Specifically:
- an additional three years if the victim is under 70 years of age.
- an additional five years if the victim is 70 years of age or older.
If the abuse resulted in a senior's death:
- an additional five years if the victim is under 70 years of age.
- an additional seven years if the victim is 70 years of age or older.
The penalties for a misdemeanor elderly abuse conviction are:
- informal probation (otherwise known as summary probation),
- up to one year in a county jail,
- a fine of up to $6,000 (or $10,000 for a second or subsequent offense),
Charges of elder abuse are not exclusive. You can be charged with elder abuse along with other applicable criminal offenses such as murder, rape, battery, or domestic violence which carry their own penalties.
Given the serious consequences of a Palm Springs elder abuse conviction, it is crucial that you retain an experienced Palm Springs criminal defense attorney if you are facing charges involving physical or emotional harm to a senior citizen. Give us a call today.