Many people are innocently accused of elder abuse or neglect. Accusations of abuse can be especially painful when someone is doing their best to care for an elder parent or relative. If you are accused of abusing an elderly person, a strong defense can help to avoid a criminal conviction. Talk to your experienced North Carolina criminal defense attorney about your options when someone accuses you of abuse.
Elder Abuse Laws in North Carolina
An elder adult is considered any “person 60 years of age or older who is not able to provide for the social, medical, psychiatric, psychological, financial, or legal services necessary to safeguard the person's rights and resources and to maintain the person's physical and mental well-being.”
Under North Carolina law, domestic abuse, neglect, and exploitation of a disabled or elder adult is a crime. Abuse includes more than physical assault. Abuse includes failure to care for an elder adult.
Under North Carolina General Statute § 14-32.3, “a person is guilty of abuse if that person is a caretaker of a disabled or elder adult who is residing in a domestic setting and, with malice aforethought, knowingly and willfully:
- fails to provide medical or hygienic care, or
- confines or restrains the disabled or elder adult in a place or under a condition that is cruel or unsafe, and as a result of the act or failure to act the disabled or elder adult suffers mental or physical injury”
Elder abuse is a Class H felony if the elder adult suffers injury. However, elder abuse is a Class F felony if the elder adult suffers serious injury from the abuse.
The penalties for a Class H felony include 4 to 25 months of imprisonment. As a Class F felony, sentencing can include 10 to 41 months of imprisonment.
Elder abuse can also include neglect. Unlike abuse, neglect does not need to be malicious, knowing, or willful. “A person is guilty of neglect if that person is a caretaker of a disabled or elder adult who is residing in a domestic setting and, wantonly, recklessly, or with gross carelessness:
- fails to provide medical or hygienic care, or
- confines or restrains the disabled or elder adult in a place or under a condition that is unsafe, and as a result of the act or failure to act the disabled or elder adult suffers mental or physical injury.
Elder neglect is a Class I felony if the elder adult suffers injury. However, elder abuse is a Class G felony if the elder adult suffers serious injury from the abuse.
The penalties for a Class I felony include 3 to 12 months of imprisonment. As a Class G felony, sentencing can include 8 to 31 months of imprisonment.
A felony conviction for elder abuse can also result in loss of voting rights, loss of housing options, and prohibit the purchase or ownership of a firearm.
Elder Abuse Against a Family Member
Elder abuse allegations involving an alleged victim and perpetrator who are family members or live in the same household may result in domestic violence charges. Domestic violence includes “current or former household members,” children and parents and grandparents. The penalties for elder abuse of a family member may depend on the type of injury and harm involved.
The court can also impose other penalties above and beyond jail time and fines. The court may get a restraining order against the accused to prevent them from contacting the alleged victim. Other consequences may include requiring psychiatric treatment, counseling, or substance abuse treatment.
Financial Exploitation and Elder Abuse
Some abuse allegations include claims of financial exploitation. Under North Carolina General Statute § 14-112.2, exploitation of an older adult involves deception or intimidation to use or obtain an older adult's funds, assets, or property. The penalties for financial exploitation depend on the value of the funds, assets, or property involved.
If the funds, assets, or property involved in the exploitation of the older adult or disabled adult is valued at $100,000 or more, then the offense is a Class G felony. Exploitation valued at $20,000 or more but less than $100,000 is a Class H felony. Exploitation valued at less than $20,000 is a Class I felony.
The violation also depends on whether the person is in a position of trust and confidence with the older person. The penalties increase a class level if the person is in a position of trust with the older person.
Defenses to Elder Abuse Allegations
There are a number of defenses to allegations of elder abuse. Older people can suffer accidents like a slip and fall. The injuries from an accident can make someone suspect abuse.
False allegations of abuse may be caused by family infighting. For example, anger over inheritance or treatment of a parent's property may cause a family member to falsely accuse another of abuse to try and get access to the parent's assets. Talk to your North Carolina defense attorney to understand your options when facing claims of elder abuse.
North Carolina Criminal Defense Attorneys
If you or a loved one has been accused of elder abuse or social services is investigating suspected abuse, contact the Caulder & Valentine Law Firm, PLLC. Contact us online or by phone at 704-470-2440 today for a consultation.