A Duty to Report Crimes Against the Elderly

Last week I participated in a court hearing for a client who had experienced theft. When the theft initially occurred, there was the question about proceeding to report the crime especially since the items in question were recovered.  I was disturbed about this event occurring again to another vulnerable older adult and I felt there was no option but to report the crime.  While I had little knowledge of crime reporting or the related legal system, at the end of the journey I was glad I did not ignore the issue. It was nearly six months from my initial call to the local police department until the final hearing.

At the hearing, I learned that this was not the in home caregiver’s first offense.  In fact the individual was on probation from a previous offense when this theft was committed. The individual also fully intended to go back to the same line of work assuming release by the court. I was able to address the judge with a summary of events. Not only did I express concern about the vulnerability of older adults but also concern that that this individual might be allowed to work with older adults or children especially since a similar event already occurred twice.

The isolation and vulnerability of older adults to individuals selling products, to the internet, to well meaning neighbors, to telephone scams, to lotteries is widespread.  These types of incidents result in serious financial harm to older adults.  How would you feel if your parent or a family member experienced a crime and you later met someone who had knowledge and did nothing?

While you may be troubled by the ethical and moral issues of reporting a crime and the effect on the life of another individual, if you have knowledge you have responsibility to take action. Statistics indicate that the majority of elder abuse crimes are not reported.  This statistic must change

Here is a very brief description of the process in reporting crimes. Note that this may vary by county or state. The process begins with a crime being committed. The individual, family member or advocate contacts the local police department to make a report. The police then investigate the crime and determine the degree of seriousness, for example whether the event is a misdemeanor or a felony. If it is determined that a crime was likely committed a warrant is issued.  Determination is then made whether or not the individual should be charged with a crime. If yes, the suspect is arrested and held for court arraignment. At this time, the defendant is advised of the charges, penalties if convicted, constitutional rights and appointed attorney. All subsequent pre-trial procedures are determined whether the defendant is charged with a misdemeanor or a felony.

© 2012, 2013 Pamela D. Wilson.  All Rights Reserved.

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