Georgia is getting older. According to an AJC article published earlier this year, the state’s senior citizen population is on the rise. In fact, the Georgia Council on Aging has reported a 550% increase in elder abuse since 2010. With the steady growth of seniors in Georgia also comes along an increase in elder abuse prosecutions.
To combat elder abuse, Georgia lawmakers—in recent years—have: passed bills to crack down on elder abuse, increased funding poured into Georgia’s Adult Services agency, created and funded a new position for a statewide elder abuse prosecutor and established a new GBI unit to focus on elder abuse crimes (Crimes Against At-Risks Adults Unit). There is no doubt that the state of Georgia is taking elder abuse serious. The elderly in our Georgia counties and communities should be protected against any criminal behavior exhibited towards them. However, as experienced criminal defense attorneys, we also know that our criminal justice system doesn’t always get it right and that many people are falsely accused of crimes that they did not commit—including elder abuse.
Elder Abuse Explained…
Not only are elder abuse charges on the rise because of the growth in the senior population in Georgia but also because, historically, elder abuse cases were viewed as civil matters amongst law enforcement and not criminal offenses. To be clear—in Georgia, elder abuse is a crime.
Under Georgia law, it is a felony for any person to knowingly and willfully exploit, inflict physical pain, physical injury, sexually abuse, impose mental anguish upon, unreasonably confine or deprive of essential services an elder person or disabled adult. Upon conviction, an offender can be imprisoned for 1 – 20 years and/or fined $50,000. Further, any person found guilty of threatening, intimidating or attempting to intimidate an elder person or disabled adult will be convicted of a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature. O.C.G.A. §16-5-102. Essentially, anyone from family members and caregivers to fiduciaries and con artists “running get-rich scams” on the elderly can be charged with elder abuse.
As defined under O.C.G.A. §30-5-3…
Abuse is defined as the willful infliction of physical pain, physical injury, sexual abuse, mental anguish, unreasonable confinement, or the willful deprivation of essential services to a disabled or elder person. Essential services include the social, medical, psychiatric, or legal services necessary to safeguard the disabled adult’s or elder person’s rights and resources and to maintain the physical and mental well-being of such person. These services shall include, but not be limited to, the provision of medical care for physical and mental health needs, assistance in personal hygiene, food, clothing, adequately heated and ventilated shelter, and protection from health and safety hazards but shall not include the taking into physical custody of a disabled adult or elder person without that person’s consent.
Exploitation means the illegal or improper use of a disabled adult or elder person or that person’s resources through undue influence, coercion, harassment, duress, deception, false representation, false pretense, or other similar means for another’s profit or advantage. Examples include cashing an elderly person’s check without authorization, stealing money or possessions that lawfully belong to an elder person, improper use of power of attorney over an elder person and forging an elder person’s signature on a contract or will.
Neglect is considered the absence or omission of essential services to the degree that it harms or threatens with harm the physical or emotional health of a disabled adult or elder person.
Sexual abuse is the coercion for the purpose of self-gratification by a guardian or other person supervising the welfare or having immediate charge, control, or custody of a disabled adult or elder person who engages in any non-consensual sexual contact or unwanted touching of any kind with a disabled adult or elder person.
Mandated Reporters & Interference w/the Investigation…
Under Georgia law, doctors, medical staff, social workers, employees at financial institutions and law enforcement are considered mandated reporters and are responsible for reporting any suspected elder abuse. Also, under O.C.G.A. §16-5-102, any person who willfully and knowingly obstructs or in any way impedes an investigation of elder abuse will be found guilty of a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature upon conviction.
Contact Bixon Law…
If you are a family member, caregiver or fiduciary of an elderly person who has been accused of elder abuse, contact us today. As experienced lawyers, we can evaluate your case and seek to get it dismissed or get the charges reduced. Being charged of any crime is stressful; however, having a conviction for elder abuse on your record can put a huge stain on your reputation and destroy your career if you are a caretaker. Call us today for help with your case at 404-551-5684 for a free consultation.