The law prohibits mental or physical abuse of elderly or vulnerable adults or failing to care for them, usually known as elder neglect. If a caregiver fails to provide proper care to a vulnerable adult, this is considered elder abuse. ARS 13-3623 outlines the crime of elder abuse. The violation of this statute can subject you to civil and criminal liability. If the prosecutor accuses you of elder abuse, you need to seek the service of a competent criminal attorney immediately. At the Phoenix Criminal Attorney, we are always ready to assist you in creating a convincing defense to fight your charges.
Elder Abuse Under Arizona Law
It is a crime under ARS 13-3623 for any person to commit elder abuse. You can face charges for this crime if, under certain circumstances, you do any of the following:
- First, cause a vulnerable adult or an elderly person to suffer physical harm.
- Allow a vulnerable adult or an elderly person to undergo emotional pain.
- Allow a vulnerable adult or an elderly person to be put in a situation that endangers their health or well-being.
Under the law, a vulnerable adult is someone 18 years or older who cannot defend themselves against neglect, exploitation, or abuse by others. He/she could be unable to do this because of physical or mental impairment. You could face elder abuse charges for:
Financial Exploitation Or Abuse
The financial abuse of an elder involves doing any of the following:
- Changing an elder's will or any other financial documents.
- Misusing the victim's money, indicated by a sudden change or unusual spending patterns.
- Forging an elder's financial documents is usually characterized by documents bearing a fraudulent signature.
- Unpaid bills if you are responsible for helping the elderly pay monthly bills.
- Abuse of vulnerable adult assets
The leading signs of emotional abuse by an elder include:
- Isolation from friends, relatives, or family members.
- Unusual changes in conduct or sleep.
- Increased anxiety or fear.
- Withdraw from normal activities.
The signs of sexual abuse of an elder include the following:
- Engagement in aggressive or inappropriate sexual activities.
- Sudden development of sexually transmitted disease.
- Pelvic injury.
- Stained, torn, or bloody undergarments.
- Bruising in the inner thighs or private areas.
The signs of physical abuse by an elder include the following:
- Unexplained cuts, sores, injuries, and bruises.
- Lack of necessary medication or unattended medical needs.
- Poor hygiene or unsanitary living conditions.
- Missing daily aids like hearing aids and glasses.
- Unusual weight loss or dehydration.
Other Examples Of Elder Abuse
Common examples of elder abuse include:
- A family member fails to feed a vulnerable adult who cannot care for themselves.
- Social workers demean or ridicule a group of vulnerable adults.
- A caregiver overmedicated a nursing home patient.
The Elements Of Elder Abuse Crime
If the prosecutor accuses you of elder abuse, ARS 13-3623 requires that he/she proves that you committed the crime and you did so either:
- Knowingly or intentionally.
- With criminal negligence.
You could commit this crime knowingly when you believe or have the knowledge that your behavior is abusive. In addition, you can intentionally commit elder abuse if you know a particular situation exists and take advantage of it.
Acting recklessly means that you committed elder abuse with a disregard for the potentially significant risk of harm to an elderly person.
On the other hand, criminal negligence means that you committed elder abuse without considering that your action could pose a significant risk of harm to the victim.
However, ARS 13-3623 does not apply to the following people:
- For example, an elderly or vulnerable adult receiving spiritual treatment through prayer and the elderly would not be considered endangered, neglected, or abused if medical treatment were being administered.
- A health care provider who allows a patient's condition to deteriorate or to die by failing to provide health care if the patient refuses the care through a court-appointed guardian, surrogate, or a care directive.
Penalties For An Elder Abuse Conviction
You will face penalties for elder abuse depending on the circumstances of your case. For example, if you violate ARS 13-3623 under the circumstances likely to cause serious injuries or death of a vulnerable adult, the prosecutor could prosecute the crime as follows:
- Class two felony if it is evident that you acted knowingly or intentionally. In this case, you could face a jail term that does not exceed 12 years in state prison.
- Class three felony if you acted recklessly. In this case, you could face a jail term that does not exceed nine years in state prison.
- Class four felony if you acted with criminal negligence. In this case, you could face a jail term that does not exceed four years in state prison.
If you violate ARS 13-3623 under different circumstances other than those outlined above and likely cause serious injuries or death of the vulnerable adult, the prosecutor could prosecute the crime as follows:
- If you acted knowingly or intentionally, the prosecutor would charge you with a class four felony.
- If you acted recklessly, the prosecutor would charge you with a class five felony. In this case, you could face a jail term of six months to two years in state prison.
- If you acted with criminal negligence, the prosecutor would charge you with a class six felony. In this case, you could face a jail term that does not exceed two years in state prison.
Defenses To Elder Abuse Charges
Your attorney could recommend the following defense strategies depending on the facts of your charges:
Lack Of Sufficient Evidence
The prosecutor cannot charge you with elder abuse if he/she does not have substantial evidence to show that you committed the crime. If the elder cannot rationally corroborate the allegations and physical proof of the abuse, then the crime does not exist. Generally, circumstantial evidence is not applicable in elder abuse cases.
You Acted In Self-Defense
Most elder abuse cases usually involve mentally unstable and irrational elders. A family member, friend, or caretaker who acts to protect themselves from harm is not guilty of elder abuse.
Lack Of Age Awareness
The prosecutor can only charge you with elder abuse if you knew the elder was 65. If your attorney can prove that you reasonably believed the person was young or acted younger than 65 years, the prosecutor cannot charge you with elder abuse.
No Intent Or Criminal Negligence
The prosecutor cannot charge you with elder abuse if you did not mean to cause harm or you used ordinary care around the elderly. In addition, the prosecutor can't charge you with elder abuse if the elder sustained harm through ordinary negligence or no fault of your own.
Usually, the law requires certain people to report suspected elder abuse crimes. These people could accuse you accidentally or purposely of elder abuse without gathering sufficient evidence. The prosecution could lose the case against you if your attorney proves that you did not commit the alleged crime.
Injury By Something Different
Often, vulnerable adults become endangered or suffer injuries differently, including falling through self-neglect or trying to walk. Therefore, you can establish your innocence by proving that the elder was injured by something other than your actions.
Reporting Suspected Elder Abuse Offenses
Informers use many ways to report elder abuse crimes to law enforcement agents or peace officers. One way of reporting the crime of elder abuse is by dialing 9-1-1, especially in an emergency case. Informers can also reach out to the following institutions if the elder abuse case is not an emergency:
- Adult Protective Services abuse hotline.
- Area Agency on Aging 24-hour Helpline.
- Attorney General’s Task Force Against Senior Abuse Helpline.
The Attorney General's TASA Helpline usually reports crimes involving elders' financial resources. An informer can also report elder abuse crimes online at the Arizona Department of Economic Security's website.
Damages A Vulnerable Adult Can Recover In Elder Abuse Lawsuit
An elder or their loved one can file a lawsuit against a care institution, facility, company, or individual if an elder suffers sexual, financial, emotional, or physical abuse. This means that you could face civil and criminal charges when you commit elder abuse.
The Arizona Adult Protective Services Statute allows vulnerable adults to file civil suits. The vulnerable adult can recover the following damages:
- Punitive damages.
- Attorney’s fees and costs.
- Pain and suffering.
- Medical bills.
- Loss of enjoyment in life.
Under the law, an elder can recover punitive damages upon proving that the abuser’s behavior was despicable, malicious, or fraudulent. Punitive damages aim at punishing the defendant. The damage also acts as a warning to other people in the community. Generally, this damage focuses on the wrongdoing of the defendant rather than the elder’s injuries.
The court could award the victim punitive damages if he/she provides convincing evidence of malice, fraud, and oppression. Usually, there is no set limit on the award amount upon establishing a punitive damage claim.
Attorney Fees And Costs
After proving that the abuse occurred, the victim can be compensated for attorney fees and costs in an elder abuse case. However, the court can only award this damage if the victim provides substantial evidence that the abuser engaged in fraudulent, oppressive, or malicious conduct to harm them.
Pain And Suffering
Experiential sensations and feelings, also known as non-economic damages, are compensable. They include disfigurement, humiliation, emotional and mental distress, or physical pain sensations. Therefore, if an elder’s pain and suffering compensation is justified, he/she could recover these damages.
Under Arizona law, if an elder files a lawsuit against a healthcare provider, there is no cap on damages provided the elder is alive when the lawsuit concludes. Also, if the victim dies before the conclusion of the case and a family member proves elder abuse, the court could award them these damages.
A victim could be entitled to medical bills compensation for the costs incurred in seeking treatment for injuries sustained due to the abuse or neglect. The victim could recover damages for the following:
- In-home services.
- Ambulance fees.
- Prescription medication.
- Rehabilitation or physical therapy.
- Medical bills for doctor visits, hospitalization, tests, and treatment costs.
Related Offenses To Elder Abuse
Some of the offenses that could be charged together with elder abuse include:
Assault — ARS 13-1203
It is a crime under ARS 13-1203 for any person to commit assault. You could be guilty of this crime if you do the following:
- Recklessly, intentionally, or knowingly cause bodily harm to another person.
- Intentionally placing another person at reasonable risk of bodily harm.
- Knowingly touching another person with the aim of provoking, injuring, or insulting them.
Prosecutors often charge assault committed knowingly or intentionally, causing physical injury to another person as a class one misdemeanor. This crime usually attracts a jail term that does not exceed six months.
Prosecutors charge assault that puts someone else in fear or assault committed recklessly, causing injury to another person as a class two misdemeanor. In this case, you could face a jail term that does not exceed four months. On the other hand, you could face a class three misdemeanor if you commit assault by touching someone else. In this case, you could face a jail term that does not exceed one month.
Theft — ARS 13-1802
Theft offense is defined under ARS 13-1802. You could commit this crime by knowingly taking or using another person's property without legal authority. How you could commit this crime, include:
- Using another person’s property without providing any form of adequate compensation or paying for them.
- Controlling someone else’s property knowingly despite having known that the property was stolen.
- Controlling lost property without making efforts to locate the true owner.
- Obtaining someone else’s property using fraud.
- Taking another person's services or property after being entrusted with such services or property and acting without the owner's consent.
- Using another person’s property with the intent to steal or deprive the owner permanently.
According to ARS 13-1802, you could commit this offense if, without legal authority, you do the following:
- Knowingly use, manage, or take control of a vulnerable adult’s property while acting in a position of confidence and trust.
- You do so intending to deprive the vulnerable adult of the property.
Examples of acts that involve taking another person’s property without authority include:
- Agreeing to take stolen property from a friend and hide it.
- Snatching your neighbor's motorbike and giving another person as a birthday gift.
- Taking another person’s vehicle from a parking lot without their consent.
Prosecutors often prosecute a violation of ARS 13-1802 as a simple misdemeanor or felony. You could face charges depending on the value of the property you took. If you are found guilty of this crime, you could face significant jail terms and the following charges:
- Class one misdemeanor.
- Class two felony.
- Class three felony.
- Class four felony.
- Class five felony.
- Class six felony.
Theft of property valued under $1,000 is a class one misdemeanor. This crime attracts a jail term of six months in jail. Prosecutors also charge theft of services or property valued between $1,000 and $2,000 as a class six felony. This crime attracts a jail term of four months to two years in state prison.
Prosecutors often charge theft of services or property valued between $2,000 and $3,000 as a class five felony. This crime often attracts a jail term of six to two-and-a-half years in state prison. Theft of services or property between $3,000 and $4,000 is a class four felony. In this case, you could face a jail term of one to four years in state prison.
Theft of services or property valued between $4,000 and $25,000 is a class three felony. This offense usually attracts a jail term of two to eight years in state prison. Theft of services or property valued at $25,000 or more is a class two felony. This crime often attracts a jail term that does not exceed 12 years in state prison.
Domestic Violence — ARS 13-3601
Domestic violence crime is defined under ARS 13-3601. You could be guilty of this crime if you do the following:
- You commit the offense highlighted under ARS 13-3601.
- You commit the offense while in a domestic relationship with someone else.
The offenses listed under this statute include:
- Aggravated assault ARS 13-1204.
- Sexual assault ARS 13-1406.
- Criminal trespass ARS 13-1504, among others.
The prosecutor will charge you depending on the facts of your charges. The penalties you could face include the following:
- Revocation of your right to purchase, possess or own a gun.
- Confinement in a state prison.
- Mandatory completion of domestic violence offender treatment program.
Find A Criminal Defense Near Me
Elder abuse is a serious crime under Arizona law. If the court finds you guilty of elder abuse, the penalties could include paying restitution to the elder, a hefty fine, and jail time. Therefore, you should contact an attorney when you learn that you are under investigation for elder abuse. We invite you to contact the Phoenix Criminal Attorney for reliable legal representation. Call us at
602-551-8092 to speak to one of our attorneys.