Dementia and other degenerative disorders can cause elderly individuals to become confused and disoriented. Consequently, they sometimes make false accusations about elder abuse. If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of an elderly individual accusing you of inflicting physical injury or pain, an elder abuse defense attorney can help. Below, we'll discuss what you should know when facing an elder abuse charge.
The first step you should take when accused of elder abuse is to talk to a defense lawyer with experience defending elder abuse cases. Elder abuse is a serious crime; therefore, consult with an attorney before speaking with anyone else about the situation. Even though you know you're innocent, anything you say to the authorities can be used against you.
STATE ELDER LAW
If you live in a state that has specific laws relating to elder abuse, the prosecution must prove that you knew the victim was over the age of 65. Regardless of the person's age, physically abusing someone is against the law. But you may face a stiffer criminal penalty in a state that has elder abuse laws.
STRENGTH OF EVIDENCE
In order for the prosecutor to move forward with the case, he or she must have sufficient factual evidence to prove the case. Your attorney will work to have the charges against you dropped by looking for flaws in the prosecutor's case against you. Any allegations an elder makes must be backed by evidence to support them. Otherwise, the prosecutor or the court will dismiss the charges. The lack of physical evidence and corroborating witnesses isn't the only way to get the charges dismissed. While investigating the allegations, your lawyer may discover that the person has a history of mental illness or has made false accusations against others in the past. Your lawyer can also get the charges dropped if he or she discovers that the authorities did not gather evidence in the appropriate manner. In that case, the judge rules the evidence inadmissible. Hearsay evidence isn't admissible either.
Lack of intent is an effective defense if your lawyer can show that an injury to the victim was an accident. The prosecution may not be able to prove willful intent, especially if you can show that you attempted to take reasonable care of the individual in the particular incident in question. Or you must demonstrate that you did not foresee that your actions or failure to act would cause injury. The court also will not hold you criminally liable in a situation where the elderly individual became physically aggressive or violent toward you or another person. However, you must show that your own physical safety or that of another individual was at risk and the use of immediate force was necessary to protect yourself or others from harm. Even so, you must show that you used no more force than necessary to defend yourself against the elder's threatening actions. Elderly memory loss may be another avenue for defense. If the person experiences memory problems because of Alzheimer's disease or as a side effect of medication, he or she may unintentionally accuse you of wrongdoing. The person may have hallucinations, such as hearing voices or seeing people who aren't there, that seem very real, distorting their perceptions of what's happening to them.
Unless there are witnesses to the abuse, alleged victims who appear cognitively impaired may be doubted when they relate their accounts of the events. When it comes to establishing your own credibility, your character and a positive reputation are essential factors. The authorities are more likely to believe that you treated your accuser with care and dignity if you continue to show compassion and respect toward the elder even as you defend yourself against false accusations. If you've been charged with elder abuse or another criminal offense and are in need of legal defense, call the law offices of Kassel and Kassel A Group of Independent Law Offices. Attorney Gregory H. Kassel has the experience and expertise to help you.