SmartLaw: Attorney and Lawyer Referral Service. Divorce, bankruptcy, criminal, accident, business
SmartLaw.org
Home
 
The Los Angeles County Bar Association Lawyer Referral and Information Service, the largest and oldest such service in the United States, has hundreds of pre-screened, qualified and insured lawyers in the Los Angeles area who can help you with your legal issues. Contact us now and our courteous, professionally trained staff will help you connect you with the right lawyer. The LRIS is a nonprofit public service of LACBA.

Message #561 Reporting adult abuse

mp3 #561 Reporting Adult Abuse (mp3 file)


California law since 1985 has required people who hold certain jobs, to report their knowledge or suspicions of physical abuse and sexual assaults on elderly persons and dependent adults. Their reports are made to local agency in the county. These required reporters may voluntarily report other types of adult abuse. Other people may voluntarily report any kind of adult abuse, but they are not legally required to make any reports.

This message will discuss the following questions:

1. -Who are the elderly persons and dependent adults, about whom reports of certain types of abuse must be made?

2-Who must make the required reports of physical abuse and sexual assault?

3- Under what circumstances must physical abuse and sexual assault be reported?

4- What types of physical abuse and sexual assault must be reported?

5-Under what circumstances may other types of adult abuse be voluntarily reported by the mandatory reporters?

6-What other types of adult abuse may be voluntarily reported?

7-Are other people required to report abuse?

8- How and to whom are required reports made?

9- What are the penalties if mandatory reporters fail to make required reports promptly?

10 - How and to whom are voluntary reports made?

11 - Are reports kept confidential?

12 - What if you are sued by someone for making a report?

13 - What action is taken after you make a report?

First, who are the elderly persons and dependent adults, about who reports of certain types of abuse must be made?

The elderly persons are any men and women age 65 and older, who reside in the state of California. Dependent adults are men and women between the ages of 18 and 64, who have physical or mental limitations, which restrict their abilities to carry out normal activities, or their abilities to protect their rights. Dependent adults also include people with developmental disabilities. Their physical and mental limitations make all such people dependent and vulnerable to abuse. Their mental and verbal limitations often mean that they cannot even ask for help and protection when they are abused. Family members and others who care for such persons may themselves have financial difficulties, emotional problems, fatigue, and drug or alcohol problems that may cause them to abuse or neglect those in their care.

In California Welfare and Institutions Code Sections 15600 through 15650, the law seeks to protect elders and dependent adults through a reporting system that will trigger investigations and protection by using local community services.

The next question is: "Who must make the required reports of physical abuse and sexual assault?"

There are four categories of mandatory or required reporters; they are

--care custodians

--health practitioners

--employees of county adult protective services agencies, and

--employees of local law enforcement agencies.

Who are the care custodians who must report abuse? They are the administrators and employees of the following public or private facilities:

--health facilities

--clinics

--home health agencies

--educational institutions

--sheltered workshops

--camps

--respite care facilities

--residential care institutions, including foster homes and group homes

--community care facilities

--adult day care facilities

--regional centers for persons with developmental disabilities

--licensing agencies

--public assistance or welfare departments

--patients rights advocates offices

--nursing home ombudsman offices

--skilled nursing facilities

--intermediate care facilities

--local law enforcement agencies

--legal guardians or conservators, and

--any other persons who provide goods or services needed to avoid physical harm or mental suffering, and who perform some duties.

Who are the health practitioners who must report abuse? They are physicians, surgeons, residents, interns, psychiatrists, psychologists, dentists, podiatrists, chiropractors, licensed nurses, dental hygienists, marriage-family-child counselors, licensed clinical social workers, emergency medical technicians, paramedics, various health professionals in training, state and county public health and social service employees, everyone who treats elders and dependent adults for any condition, coroners, and religious practitioners who diagnose, examine, or treat elders or dependent adults.

An adult protective services agency is a county welfare or public social services department, or another designated agency. Local law enforcement agencies include city police, county sheriffs, and county probation departments. Employees of these agencies are also required reporters of adult abuse.

The next question is: "under what circumstances must physical abuse and sexual assault be reported?"

First, knowledge or suspicion of the abuse must come to the attention of the required reporters, through their professional capacities or within the scope of their employment. Second, they must either have observed the abuse, or they must observe physical injuries that are consistent with physical abuse or sexual assault, or the victim's statements or other supporting evidence indicates a reasonable suspicion that such abuse or assault has occurred.

The next question is: "what types of physical abuse and sexual assault must be reported?"

Physical abuse and sexual assault are the only types of adult abuse that must be reported.

Physical abuse includes the following acts:

--criminal assault, or certain types of threats of physical harm,

--criminal battery, or certain types of unlawful hitting, or shoving

--criminal assault with a deadly weapon, or with force likely to produce great bodily injury.

--unreasonable physical restraint

--prolonged or continual withholding of food or water

--criminal sexual battery, or the unlawful touching of the skin on certain parts of the body --rape

--incest

--sodomy

--oral copulation

--penetration of a genital or anal opening by a finger or some object other than a penis, and

--use of a physical or chemical restraint, medication, or isolation without authorization, or for a purpose or time other than that for which it was ordered.

The next question is: "Under what circumstances may other types of adult abuse be voluntarily reported by the mandatory reporters?"

While mandatory reporters must report physical abuse and sexual assault, there are other types of abuse which they may report, but which they are not legally required to report. Whenever the mandatory reporters have actual knowledge of, or when they reasonably suspect, other types of abuse, then they may voluntarily report these other types of abuse.

The next question is: "what other types of adult abuse may be voluntarily reported?"

These other types of abuse include neglect, abandonment, financial abuse, intimidation, cruel punishment, conduct causing physical harm or pain or mental suffering, and caretakers who withhold goods or services which are necessary to avoid physical harm or mental suffering.

What is neglect? Neglect includes the negligent failure to assist in personal hygiene, failure to provide food, clothing or shelter, failure to provide medical care for physical and mental health needs, failure to protect from health and safety hazards, and failure to prevent malnutrition, by any person who has care or custody of an elder or dependent adult.

What is abandonment? Abandonment occurs when a person who is responsible for care or custody, deserts or willfully forsakes an elder or dependent adult, when a reasonable person would continue to provide care and custody.

What is financial abuse? Financial abuse occurs when a person who has care or custody, or who stands in a position of trust, steals or misappropriates the money or property of an elder or dependent adult.

What is intimidation? Intimidation is deliberately causing elders or dependent adults to be afraid, agitated, confused, severely depressed, or to suffer from other forms of serious emotional distress, by threatening, harassing, or otherwise intimidating them.

The next question is: "Are other people required to report abuse?" No, other people are not legally required to report any type of abuse, but other people may voluntarily report any type of abuse that they know about, or which they reasonably suspect.

The next question is: "How and to whom are required reports made?" Reports are made either to an adult protective service agency at the county welfare department (which is also called the public social services department), or reports are made to the local police, sheriff, or probation department. If the abuse or assault occurs in a long-term care facility, then the verbal and written reports should be made either to the long-term care ombudsman coordinator of the state or county department of aging, or to a local law enforcement agency.

Mandatory reporters of physical abuse and sexual assault must immediately notify the welfare department or the police by telephone. Then the mandatory reporter must send a written report within two working days. The written report must be made on a specified form.

The reporting duties by mandatory reporters are their individual responsibilities. They must make the telephone call themselves, or make sure that someone else makes the call for them right away. No supervisor or administrator may impede or inhibit these reporting duties. No mandatory reporter may be disciplined in any way for making a required report.

The next question is: "What are the penalties if mandatory reporters fail to make required reports promptly?"

If mandatory reporters fail to make required reports promptly of physical abuse or sexual assault, such failures to report are misdemeanor criminal offenses. Punishment may be up to six months in county jail, or a fine of up to $1,000, or both.

The next question is: "How and to whom are voluntary reports made?"

Other people who make voluntary reports of any kind of abuse, and mandatory reporters who make voluntary reports of other kinds of abuse, may contact the same agencies—county, welfare, the long-term ombudsman coordinator, or the police--in person, by telephone, or in writing. There are no time limits for voluntary reports, but the sooner the reports are made, the sooner the abused persons can receive protection they need.

The next question is: "Are reports of abuse kept confidential?" Yes, the reports, and the information contained in them, are kept confidential, and are used only by the governmental and private agencies involved in investigating the reports, protecting the abused persons, and prosecuting some abusers.

Mandatory reporters are required to give their own names when making reports of abuse, but other people are not required to give their own names when making voluntary reports. The names of all persons making reports of adult abuse are kept confidential in the same way that the reports themselves are kept confidential. Violations of these confidentiality provisions of the law are misdemeanor criminal offenses, punishable by up to six months in county jail, or a fine of up to $500, or both. Civil remedies may also be available.

The next question is: "What if you are sued by someone for making a report?"

If you are a mandatory reporter who makes a report of any type of abuse, the law protects you by stating that you are not civilly or criminally liable for making the report. If you are a mandatory reporter, and somebody does sue you anyway, you can submit a bill to the state for your lawyer's reasonable legal fees, for up to $50,000.

If you are another person who makes a voluntary report of any type of abuse, the law gives you almost as much protection, by stating that you are not civilly or criminally liable for making the report. However, you can be found liable if it is proven that a false report was made, and you knew it was false when you made the report. If someone does sue you anyway, the state will not pay for any of your lawyer's legal fees.

The last question is: "What action is taken after you make a report?"

The county welfare department, the long-term care ombudsman coordinator, and the police share with each other the information in your report, and a prompt investigation is made to determine if abuse has occurred. If abuse is confirmed, measures are taken to ensure that the abuse does not continue. Community services are used to provide for the abused adult's immediate and long-term needs.

Back to Top

() -

 
 

Find a lawyer outside of California.