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Age Is Just a Number: When Senior Citizens Are Accused of Domestic Violence


When thinking about domestic violence, most of us think about the elderly in the context of being possible victims (e.g., elder abuse). But what if you are an older person accused of committing domestic violence? Unfortunately, it can and does happen—and it can be even more traumatic and life-disruptive to be accused as an older person than a younger adult. What are the ramifications you may face? What happens if you’re convicted? Are there special factors the court might consider?

Regardless of whether there is any merit to the accusations, being an older adult accused of domestic violence can give rise to a myriad of complex issues. Let’s delve deeper into this question to see what we can learn.

What Circumstances Could Lead to Domestic Violence Charges Against a Senior?

Older individuals can find themselves accused of domestic violence in various circumstances. Sometimes these are simply false accusations, sometimes they arise from misunderstandings, and on occasion, an actual crime may occur. Here are some examples of when an older person could be accused:

  • Misguided discipline. For example, if a grandparent exceeds their boundaries in disciplining a grandchild, it could be construed as child abuse, especially if corporal punishment is involved.
  • Caregiver stress. Elderly individuals often rely on family members for caregiving. The strain of this responsibility can result in arguments and confrontations, which may escalate to accusations of violence.
  • Self-defense. In some cases, an elderly individual might view a family member or caregiver as a threat, take steps to protect themselves, and be accused of domestic violence as a result.
  • Cognitive decline. Mental health issues in older adults, such as dementia or cognitive decline, can occasionally lead to aggressive or violent behavior. Family members may misinterpret these actions as intentional abuse.
  • Vindictive spouse or family member. Unfortunately (and ironically), sometimes a family member or spouse will level a false accusation of domestic violence as an act of abuse against older adults, often with an ulterior motive such as revenge, to gain control of finances, etc.

Ramifications of a Domestic Violence Accusation Against the Elderly

Being accused of domestic violence can be particularly challenging for an elderly person- even more so if you are convicted. Some potential complications and consequences may include:

  • Jail time and fines
  • Loss of housing or being forced to move into a care facility
  • Involuntary commitment to mental health treatment or institutionalization
  • Restraining orders preventing contact with family members (this can happen even if you’re not actually charged with or convicted of a crime)
  • Financial penalties or restitution
  • Mandatory anger management or counseling programs
  • Damage to personal reputation and social relationships

Be aware that as someone older, any of these consequences could severely impact your quality of life, causing you to be victimized even as you are being accused of causing harm–and in certain cases, even shortening your life span. For this reason, having skilled legal representation is crucial to protect your rights.

Navigating the Legal Maze

When handling cases where elderly individuals are accused of domestic violence, the legal system often considers factors such as age, mental capacity, and physical health. These factors include, but are not necessarily limited to:

Age and Mental Capacity

The court may consider an elderly individual’s mental capacity when determining guilt or innocence. For example, if an individual suffers from dementia or cognitive decline, an attorney can often use this fact as an effective defense against the charges. The court may consider their ability to understand the consequences of their actions or form the intent necessary to commit a crime.

Physical Health

An individual’s physical health and mobility may be relevant in determining the credibility of accusations. For instance, if an older adult is accused of physically assaulting a family member, their ability to carry out the alleged actions could be a factor in the case. Additionally, the court may consider the accused’s physical health when passing a sentence if convicted.

Family Dynamics

Understanding the family dynamics at play is crucial when defending elderly individuals accused of domestic violence. A lawyer must carefully examine the relationships between the parties involved and any potential motives for false accusations.

If you’re a senior citizen accused of domestic violence in Los Angeles, the situation can become very complex and emotionally charged—and the ramifications of being convicted of a crime can be devastating. That’s why it’s critical to have skilled legal representation from an experienced attorney who thoroughly understands the unique circumstances, legal considerations, and implications of a conviction. 

Remember, age doesn’t shield you from accusations, but it provides a unique context that must be carefully considered in pursuing justice. We can provide compassionate and skilled legal representation, gather evidence for your defense, and help you navigate these complex waters for the best possible resolution. Call our offices to schedule an appointment.

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