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Prosecuting Elder Abuse Cases: Basic Tools and Strategies

NCJ Number
Brenda K. Uekert, Ph.D.; Susan Keilitz, J.D.; Deborah Saunders, J.D.; Candace Heisler, J.D.; Page Ulrey, J.D.; Erin G. Baldwin, J.D.
Date Published
May 2012
46 pages
This guide presents an overview of elder abuse, which assists prosecutors in identifying prevalent issues in these cases, followed by suggestions for designing the prosecution for these cases.
Regardless of whether or not a State has a specific law that targets elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation, every State has criminal laws pertinent to elder abuse that involves murder, sexual assault, battery, theft, or fraud. Most elder-abuse cases involve the victimization of elderly individuals by persons who have ongoing contact with the victim as intimate partners, adult children, other family members, trusted caregivers, and fiduciaries (persons with real or apparent legal authority to access an older person's assets). Elder abuse often does not come to the attention of police because of the victim's inability to recognize and report abuse and neglect due to cognitive or physical impairment. For the same reasons, prosecutions of many elder abuse cases fail due to a lack of competent and credible witnesses. The guide's outline of particular issues likely to confront prosecutors in elderly abuse distinguishes the issues as "all-encompassing" and as specifically related to sexual abuse, financial abuse, and neglect. Of particular importance in building a successful prosecution in an elder abuse case is the prosecutor's ability to work with older victims. The guide suggests how prosecutors can improve their skills for interacting and communicating with older victims. The guide then offers recommendations for being creative in deciding on the charges in elder-abuse cases, anticipating and being prepared to counter common defenses, addressing issues of competency and capacity, and building an effective case. The latter topic addresses the collection and documentation of evidence, coordinating criminal cases with current or prior civil proceedings, using experts wisely, crafting appropriate sentences, and developing relationships with community partners. Appended case studies and other supplementary information

Date Published: May 1, 2012