Elder abuse can receive either a misdemeanor or felony charge similar to child abuse. Elder abuse is punishable like child abuse, and the type of charge will depend on the facts and circumstances of the abuse and the severity of the abuse against the elderly person.
Understanding Elder Abuse
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that elder abuse occurs when a person harms an elderly individual either through physical, emotional, sexual, or financial means.
It is important to note that elder neglect is also a type of elder abuse and can receive charges under the law. Every case of elder abuse will occur with its own set of facts and circumstances, and therefore, different charges will occur depending on the nature and severity of the abuse. The CDC’s research also states that there are currently over 15,000 nursing homes in the United States, and unfortunately, incidents of elder abuse and neglect seem to occur more and more frequently.
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Criminal Charges for Elder Abuse: Misdemeanor or Felony
Elder abuse is a crime. However, the nature and circumstances of the crime will impact whether or not the charge will be a misdemeanor or rise to a felony charge. A misdemeanor charge is a less severe charge and typically occurs when there is a less extreme or egregious crime committed. A felony charge occurs when a particularly severe crime of elder abuse exists. Within both types of criminal charges also exist differing degrees of severity.
Misdemeanor Elder Abuse
In many cases, elder neglect receives misdemeanor charges, as the acts of abuse do not rise to the severity of a felony charge. Criminal negligence is, however, greater than ordinary negligence.
A minor mistake or error that brings about only minor harm will not rise to the level of a misdemeanor criminal charge. Instead, examples of criminal negligence of an elderly resident in a nursing home would include the following:
- Failure to bring food or water to an elderly resident resulting in serious medical complications, dehydration, malnutrition, or death.
- Failure to appropriately provide medications to an elderly resident of a nursing home, resulting in medical complications or death.
- Failure to tend to an elderly resident’s personal hygiene issues because they are incapable of performing daily tasks on their own, such as bathing or repositioning themselves if bedridden, resulting in serious injury or death.
- Failure to assist residents in the bathroom, resulting in a slip and fall when a resident attempts to go to the bathroom on their own.
- Failure to remove hazards from inside the nursing home, which results in an elderly resident’s injury or death.
These are only a few examples of possible criminal negligent actions that illustrate inappropriate, unreasonable, and negligent behavior that shows a clear disregard for an elderly resident’s health.
Felony Elder Abuse
In extreme cases of elder abuse, criminal felony charges will occur. These cases are typically severe and egregious. The elder abuse must have included some form of physical, emotional, or sexual harm that resulted in injury or death.
Additionally, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) also states that if the amount of financial loss of an elderly resident rises to a specific level, the person who abused the elderly person financially may receive a criminal felony charge.
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Penalties for Criminal Elder Abuse
When the federal government prosecutes a person or entity, such as a nursing home facility, for elder abuse, the district attorney will make a determination regarding which charge to pursue based on the facts of the case. In most cases, a misdemeanor criminal charge of elder abuse may include probation, up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $1,000, and the enrollment in an educational program regarding elder abuse.
If the elder abuse rises to a more serious level, the district attorney may pursue felony charges, which would include possible probation, fines of up to $10,000, prison time dependent upon the severity of the crime, and enrollment in an educational program. A felony charge will always go on a person’s permanent criminal history and record.
Consult with a Nursing Home Lawyer
Elder abuse is punishable like child abuse due to the fact that both circumstances involve a person of power and authority, causing direct harm to someone in a more vulnerable position.
If you believe your elderly loved one suffered elder abuse as a resident of a nursing home, learn how a nursing home lawyer at Ben Crump Law, PLLC at (800) 959-1444 can help you understand all of your legal options, and how to pursue justice against the person that caused your elderly loved one harm.