California Penal Code 368 Overview

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What is elder abuse? This is a question many people struggle to answer when they are brought up on elder abuse charges and do not know why.

Choosing the right lawyer is critical to giving you the best chance to beat your criminal charges of elder abuse. 

In Southern California, you can trust the experienced and dedicated criminal defense lawyers from The Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, to provide superior advocacy and service.

What does that mean? It means that we put our skills, resources, and experience from trying over 150 cases to work for you.

We also attend to your emotional needs to help you navigate this tough time.

Few, if any, law firms who have hundreds of media mentions can offer you what we can. Contact us today for more information.

What Is Elder Abuse?

We have to start by defining the term “elder” under California law. The California Penal Code § 368 defines an elder as someone who is 65 years of age or older.

However, the statute protects other vulnerable populations as well.

For instance, adults between the ages of 18 and 64 with physical or mental disabilities that restrict their ability to perform normal activities need added protection under the law.

PC 368 refers to such people as “dependent adults.”

Next, we look at the term “abuse”— which refers to injuries, physical or emotional pain, and suffering experienced by the person protected under the law.

So when someone inflicts such an injury on someone who is an “elder,” as described above, there is likely a case for elder abuse.

When Is Elder Abuse a Criminal Offense?

Criminal elder abuse occurs when:

  • A person who knows or should know that a person is an elder or dependent adult,
  • Willfully causes or permits that person to suffer, or 
  • Inflicts unjustifiable physical or emotional pain upon that person. 

Additionally, a person who has care or custody of an elder or dependent adult who causes or permits the elder to sustain an injury or danger could face elder abuse charges. 

Prosecutors can charge elder abuse as either a misdemeanor or a felony. At the judge’s discretion, you could serve up to one year in jail for a misdemeanor or either two, three, or four years for felony charges.

Types of Elder Abuse

Elder abuse can take any form and does not need to be physical. In addition to physical abuse, the elder could suffer emotional abuse, neglect, or exposure to a dangerous situation.

Signs of elder abuse include physical evidence such as injuries that do not heal or cannot be explained, bed sores, infections, and many other physical injuries.

Malnourishment and dehydration are evidence of elder abuse as well. Preventing the elder from visiting with loved ones could also be a form of emotional abuse. 

The question in these situations often comes down to whether the person accused of elder abuse has a legal duty to act or prevent injuries under these circumstances.

Suppose your mother can still make decisions for herself and refuses to attend her doctor’s appointments. If she gets sick as a result, you might not be legally responsible.

Likewise, if your elderly father fell and broke his hip, you might not be accountable if the fall happened accidentally. 

Aggressively Defending People Charged with Elder Abuse

You are not automatically guilty because an elder or dependent adult in your care suffers an injury.

Call us at 619-234-2300 or contact us online for a free consultation with our award-winning criminal defense lawyers.

We have almost 40 years of experience defending people’s rights, and we have the knowledge and experience to help you beat your case.

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Kerry L. Armstrong


Attorney Kerry Armstrong opened up his law firm in June 2007. Mr. Armstrong attended Thomas Jefferson School of Law, San Diego, California, and received his B.S. from Middle Tennessee State University. Kerry L. Armstrong became certified by the State Bar of California’s Board of Legal Specialization for criminal law in August 2020, making him one of the few criminal defense attorneys with a criminal law legal specialization certificate in San Diego County.  Between 2014 – 2019, Mr. Armstrong was selected for inclusion in the California Super Lawyers list, an honor only awarded to 5% of the nation’s attorneys.

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