This article is not intended as advice for your specific matter. Rather, it is a general article about Nevada law. If you have questions about your particular case, please call Mueller, Hinds and Associates, Chtd. immediately at (702) 940-1234. This information is valid as of July 24, 2017.
What is Elder Abuse in Nevada?
In general, elder abuse can come in many forms from neglecting to attend to their sanitary needs, to sexual abuse or inappropriate touching to physically injuring an elderly person. According to the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (NCPEA), a national association for professionals and researchers working address elder abuse and neglect, between 4 and 6% of the elderly are abused. According to the National Council on Aging about 10% of Americans over 60 years of age have experienced some form of elder abuse. The NCOA has compiled some rather grave statistics here.
In Nevada, there have been laws against elder abuse under NRS 200.5099 for a long time, but a revised version is about to take effect October 1, 2017. Section 200.5091 of the NRS sets of the policy of the State of Nevada: “to provide for the cooperation of law enforcement officials, courts of competent jurisdiction and all appropriate state agencies providing human services in identifying the abuse, neglect, exploitation, isolation and abandonment of older persons and vulnerable persons through the complete reporting of abuse, neglect, exploitation, isolation and abandonment of older persons and vulnerable persons.” At first glance this may seem like common sense and it is, but there's something extraordinary going on – no other set of laws has a statute which sets out the policy of the State of Nevada like this for a subset of criminal activity. It is a strong indicator that the legislature, community and prosecutors are keenly aware of the problem and ready to apply maximum pressure to those accused.
What constitutes a crime under NRS 200.5099?
NRS 200.5099 protects two types of people, older persons over 60 years of age and vulnerable persons who are incapacitated or limited due to mental or physical illness. Those two classes of people are protected against five types of mistreatment – abandonment, abuse, exploitation, isolation and neglect. NRS 200.5092 (2015). Abandonment is the desertion or withdrawal of necessary assistance of an older or vulnerable person by a caretaker or person with an obligation to care for that person. Abuse is willful or intentional actions that inflict physical pain or emotional anguish, deprive food or necessities, nonconsensual sexual contact or permitting any of these things to happen. Exploitation is when a person gains the trust of an elderly or vulnerable person and uses the power of attorney or guardianship to obtain control through “undue influence” or deception to, essentially, steal their money or assets. Isolation is defined as intentionally preventing an older or vulnerable person from receiving visitors, mail, calls or communication by force or deception. Neglect applies to those who have a voluntary or contractual responsibility to care for an older or vulnerable person and fail to live up to that responsibility.
What are the penalties for crimes under NRS 200.5099?
The penalty for abuse or neglect or isolation or abandonment of an older or vulnerable person where it is the first offense can be treated by the judge as a “wobbler.” A wobbler is a crime that can be sentenced by the judge as either a felony or gross misdemeanor. If treated as a felony, it would be a Category C felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison. If treated as a gross misdemeanor, then it can be punished by up to 364 days in jail. If it is a second offense, then the crime would be a Category B felony publishable by up to 6 years in prison. For abuse or neglect that results in substantial bodily harm, the offense is punishable as a Category B and up to 20 years in prison. Either way, the judge could suspend the sentence and place the offender on probation.
The punishment for exploitation depends on the amount of money or assets that were obtained or used. If less than $650 then it would be a wobbler and the judge could sentence the offender to a Category C felony and up to 5 years in prison or a gross misdemeanor and up to 364 days in jail. The judge could suspend the sentence and place the offender on probation. If the value is between $650 and $5,000 then it is a Category B felony punishable by between 2 and 10 years in prison. If the value is more than $5,000 then it is a Category B felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison. If the value cannot be determined, then for a first offense it is punished as a wobbler - Category C felony by up to 5 years in prison or as a gross misdemeanor and punished by up to 364 days in jail. For a second offense it is punishable by up to 20 years in prison as a Category B felony.
What are the defenses to the crimes under NRS 200.5099?
For every crime, there is a defense. The State bears the burden of proving the charges and each element of the charge beyond a reasonable doubt. Thus, for every element an experienced criminal defense attorney can attack it through investigation, motion practice and cross-examination. The defense attorney could argue that the defendant had no obligation to care for the older or vulnerable person to defeat a neglect accusation. A defense attorney could argue that there was no undue influence used and that the transfer of money or assets were the true will of the older or vulnerable person to defeat an exploitation allegation.
Are you or a loved one accused of elder or vulnerable person abuse? Contact the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Mueller Hinds & Associates for a free consultation.