If you're facing domestic violence charges related to elder abuse in New Jersey, it's a serious situation. Whether the charges are unfounded, resulted from an accident, or are simply a one-time mistake, you can face serious consequences if convicted. Penalties can range from probation to serious jail time, fines, and mandatory domestic violence counseling. You'll need immediate legal assistance from an experienced New Jersey criminal defense attorney to protect your rights during the criminal justice process. This article addresses some of the most common questions our clients ask us about elder abuse and domestic violence charges.
What Is Domestic Violence?
New Jersey's Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991 defines domestic violence as a list of specific criminal charges between family members or those with a current or former intimate or dating relationship. These “domestic relationships” include:
- Current or former spouses
- Those with a child together
- Those in a current or former dating relationship
- Family members such as parents, children, or siblings
- Members of the same household
In many situations, those caring for or living with an elderly relative qualify as having a “domestic relationship” under New Jersey's domestic violence statutes.
A wide range of criminal charges qualify as domestic violence in New Jersey if the two people involved are in a domestic relationship, such as family or household members. Some of the crimes that qualify as domestic violence include:
- Criminal sexual contact
- Terroristic threats
- Criminal coercion
- Sexual assault
- Criminal mischief
- Criminal restraint
- False imprisonment
- Criminal trespass
Any of these crimes against an elderly person in your family can qualify as domestic violence.
Laws Protecting the Elderly in New Jersey
In New Jersey, we also have specific laws to protect older people from abuse, whether living in the community or with family members. The Adult Protective Services Act allows each county to receive and investigate reports of suspected abuse, neglect, and exploitation of vulnerable adults in the community. See N.J.S.A. § 52:27D-407, et seq. (2012). New Jersey's Mandatory Adult Abuse and Exploitation Reporting Law also protects adults over 60 when a health care provider, social worker, or other mandatory reporters suspects abuse or exploitation. See N.J.S.A. § 52:27G-7.1, et seq. (2017). Through each of these laws, the state may instigate an investigation that could lead to criminal charges.
What Is Elder Abuse in New Jersey?
While the definition of elder abuse varies from state to state, in New Jersey, abuse includes:
Physical Abuse: Physical abuse includes inflicting or threatening to inflict physical harm on a vulnerable older person or withholding a basic need.
Neglect: Neglect involves refusing to provide basic necessities to a vulnerable older person, such as food, shelter, clothing, health care, and protection.
Exploitation: Exploitation involves taking, concealing, or misusing the assets and property of a vulnerable older person.
Emotional Abuse: Emotional abuse involves inflicting distress, mental anguish, or mental pain on a vulnerable elderly person through verbal or nonverbal acts.
Sexual Abuse: Sexual abuse is non-consensual sexual contact of any kind with a vulnerable older person.
Abandonment: Abandonment is deserting a vulnerable older person after assuming responsibility for that person's care.
Under New Jersey law, abandonment or neglect of an elderly person is a third-degree crime, punishable by three to five years:
a. A person having a legal duty to care for or who has assumed continuing responsibility for the care of a person 60 years of age or older or a disabled adult, who abandons the elderly person or disabled adult or unreasonably neglects to do or fails to permit to be done any act necessary for the physical or mental health of the elderly person or disabled adult, is guilty of a crime of the third degree. For purposes of this section “abandon” means the willful desertion or forsaking of an elderly person or disabled adult.
N.J.S.A. 2C:24-8 (1989).
Additional Penalties for Domestic Violence Convictions
If convicted of a domestic violence charge related to elder abuse in New Jersey, the penalties can be wide-ranging. You could face anywhere from probation to jail time. For a disorderly persons offense conviction, which is similar to a misdemeanor in other states, you could face:
- Jail for up to six months
- Up to a $500 fine
- Mandatory domestic violence classes or counseling
For a conviction for an indictable offense, which is similar to a felony in other states, you could face:
- Fourth-degree Offense: Up to 18 months in prison
- Third-degree Offense: Three to five years in prison
- Second-degree Offense: Five to ten years in prison
- First-degree Offense: Up to 20 years in prison
If the victim of domestic violence is 60 or older, it can also be an aggravating circumstance, affecting the penalty if you are convicted of the crime.
a. In determining the appropriate sentence to be imposed on a person who has been convicted of an offense, the court shall consider the following aggravating circumstances:
(12) The defendant committed the offense against a person who the defendant knew or should have known was 60 years of age or older, or disabled.
N.J.S.A. § 2C:44-1 (2020). So, for a domestic violence crime involving a family member who is 60 or older, you could face steeper fines and more jail time if convicted.
You Need a Skilled New Jersey Domestic Violence Lawyer
If you're facing domestic violence charges related to elder abuse in New Jersey, this isn't something you should handle alone. You need skilled legal guidance. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the experienced legal team at the Lento Law Firm have been guiding people in New Jersey through domestic violence charges for years. They can help you too. Contact the Lento Law Firm online today or give them a call at (888) 535-3686 to set up your consultation.