Domestic Elder Abuse

People who take on the responsibility of caring for an elder, either privately or as a profession, assume multiple legal obligations. Some of those obligations have the force of Washington’s criminal laws behind them. An accusation of the abuse or neglect of an elder relative or elder member of one’s household could lead to a criminal charge involving domestic violence. Defending against a charge of elder abuse requires carefully isolating the prosecution’s legal and factual claims from the emotions that may surround the case. We have represented defendants in domestic violence criminal cases for over fifteen years, and can advise you of your rights and assertively defend you in court.

Dependent or Vulnerable Adults Under Washington Law

Washington law provides special protections for people deemed “dependent” or “vulnerable” due to age, physical or mental incapacitation, or other factors that make the person dependent on the care or assistance of others. Under the Washington criminal code, a “dependent person” may be someone who, due to age, needs assistance with basic daily care. Another section defines a “frail elder or vulnerable adult” as someone who is at least sixty years old and unable to care for themselves. The Washington public assistance code similarly includes a person age sixty or older who requires daily assistance in its definition of “vulnerable adult.”

Elder Abuse Under Washington Law

In a case alleging elder abuse, a prosecutor must prove that the elder individual meets the state’s definition of a vulnerable or dependent person, and that the defendant acted with the knowledge of that vulnerability. Many of the specific protections for elders under Washington criminal law are found in offenses involving sex crimes. The offense of indecent liberties, for example, includes alleged sexual contact between a person and a frail elder person, when there is a familial or other close relationship between them. Prosecutors may also file a “special allegation” in certain sex crimes cases that the alleged victim was a frail elder or vulnerable adult. The prosecutor must prove the existence of a disability and its connection to the alleged offense.

Elder Neglect Under Washington Law

“Domestic violence” in Washington refers to a wide range of offenses involving violence or the threat of violence. A prosecutor may also try to allege domestic violence through neglect rather than abuse. The offense of criminal mistreatment makes it a crime for a person who has taken on the obligation of caring for a “dependent person” to fail to provide that person with “the basic necessities of life.” The severity of the offense, which may range from a class B felony to a misdemeanor, depends on the severity of the injuries allegedly suffered by the dependent person. The prosecution must prove that the defendant assumed a duty of care over the dependent person, whether through employment or not.

An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you if you are facing criminal charges in Bellevue, King County, or anywhere else in Washington. The Law Office of Timothy L. Healy brings more than 15 years of experience protecting the rights of Washington criminal defendants. To schedule a free and confidential consultation with a member of our team, contact us today online or at (888) 312-3093.