Elder abuse encompasses a number of acts perpetrated against anyone over the age of 65, including physical abuse, psychological abuse, isolation, abandonment, neglect, and financial exploitation.
In California, nursing homes and assisted living facilities are bound by Penal Code 368 to uphold certain living standards and prevent elder abuse. If an individual working in a nursing home or assisted living facility harms someone under their care, they may have committed a crime. Criminal elder abuse can include the infliction of mental suffering or physical pain, and putting a senior in a situation that endangers their well-being. Perpetrators of elder abuse can face charges in criminal court, or be prosecuted in a civil proceeding.
Elder Abuse: Violations & Penalties
Elder abuse violations are covered by sections b, c, d and e of Penal Code 368. The severity of the penalty varies depending on the seriousness of the offence.
Section b covers elder abuse that involves causing or permitting the infliction of mental suffering or physical pain. It prohibits individuals – and nursing homes – from allowing conditions likely to produce serious bodily harm or death.
The penalties for this level of crime are two to four years in prison or a year in jail with a $6,000 fine. If the victim is older than 70, the penalty can increase to five years. If the offence results in the death of the victim, the offender can be sentenced to up to seven years in state prison. In some cases, the court may grant probation.
Section c covers injuries incurred in circumstances not likely to cause grievous bodily harm or death. This lack of deadly or serious injury puts the crime into the category of a misdemeanor.
Sections d and e of the code relate to financial crimes, including property theft and embezzlement. Whether financial elder abuse is perpetrated by a caretaker or a third party, they can face two to four years in prison; or up to a year in county jail plus a $1,000 fine for theft offences involving property valued at less than $950. If the amount stolen exceeds $950, the case may be charged as a misdemeanor or as a felony – the latter carrying a sentence including potential prison time, or up to a year in county jail.
Is Elder Abuse a Felony?
Depending on the type of crime and extent of harm involved, elder abuse in California can be classified as a felony. For instance, financial elder abuse laws allow a caretaker or guardian to be charged with a misdemeanor or felony for embezzlement or theft.
Mandated Reporting of Nursing Home Abuse
According to elder abuse laws in California, anyone who suspects elder abuse in assisted living facilities or nursing homes is required to disclose their suspicions to authorities (see below for a full list of appropriate reporting authorities). Assembly Bill 1690 and Assembly Bill 1499 require staff members at assisted living facilities and nursing homes to be trained in reporting elder abuse.
Individuals responsible for the intermittent or full-time care of an elder are considered ‘mandated reporters’ and are legally required to report elder abuse and neglect. Failing to report an instance of elder abuse is a violation of California’s reporting laws; individuals who become aware of elder abuse but don’t report it can be prosecuted under Welfare and Institutions Code section 15630.
Individuals considered mandated reporters include:
- clergy members
- law enforcement employees
- adult protective services workers
- health care providers
- adult care custodians
- anyone who assumes responsibility for elder care
- officers and employees of financial institutions (for financial elder abuse)
When a mandated reporter witnesses elder abuse, or has it reported to them, they are required to report that behavior as soon as is reasonably possible by telephone, followed by a written report within two working days. Mandated reporters must report actual or suspected physical abuse, financial abuse, isolation, abandonment, or neglect which is observed, evident, or described. Form SOC 341 must be completed and signed by the mandated reporter.
Mandated reporters are not legally required to pass on allegations of abuse in certain exceptional circumstances, such as being informed by an elder suffering with dementia or mental illness, when there is no corroborating evidence and their professional assessment leads them to believe no abuse occurred.
In most cases, failure to report is punishable by up to a year in jail and/or a fine of up to $5,000. As the bodily injury increases (or results in death) so too does the penalty.
Statute of Limitations
According to the California elder abuse statute of limitations, the timeframe within which a civil court filing can be made is two years for violations covered under sections b and c of the penal code (with exceptions made for cases where injuries don’t manifest until after the initial abuse).
For financial abuse, the statute of limitations is four years.
Report Elder Abuse in Nursing Homes
- CNA/HHA/CHT Report of Misconduct Form
- Department of Public Health (DPH), Licensing and Certification
- Local Law Enforcement — Police or Sheriff and your county district attorney’s office.
- Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program (1-800-231-4024)
- Office of State Attorney General, Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse (BMFEA) (1-800-722-0432)
- Form SOC 341
To speak to a nursing home abuse lawyer in Sacramento:
Call (916) 448-6400, submit a contact form, or chat with us using the button on the bottom right of your screen. Dudensing Law has handled numerous cases against perpetrators of elder abuse, and can help you fight the large corporations who own nursing homes in California.