If a caregiver is charged with elder abuse and is convicted in Escondido, will that record of abuse follow him or her in the event that he or she attempts to find another job working at a nursing home or assisted-living facility in Southern California? Can a person convicted of nursing home abuse apply to have this particular type of record expunged, thereby allowing that person to apply (potentially successfully) for employment at a skilled nursing facility in the area? According to a recent article in the Valley Road Runner, a particular California law may allow for the expungement of abuse records in certain cases. For San Diego-area residents whose loved ones have been the victims of elder abuse, this is particularly disconcerting.
What else should you know about California laws concerning the records of caregivers?
Expunging Records of Elder Abuse
Can a record of elder abuse really be expunged or sealed upon the request of an abuser? According to the article, a family member of a Southern California resident, Kim Oakley, suffered serious injuries at the hands of a caregiver. The caregiver, an in-home nurse, was caught on video engaging in acts of physical abuse. The caregiver was convicted of a violation of California Penal Code 368. Chapter 13 of this law concerns “crimes against elders, dependent adults, and persons with disabilities.” However, after serving a sentence for crimes committed, the caregiver petitioned under California Penal Code 1203.4 to have the record of conviction “sealed or expunged,” meaning that it would not be known to subsequent employers. The court granted the caregiver’s request.
Following news about the expungement, Kim Oakley became angry that a caregiver who had committed abuse could be eligible not only to have a criminal record expunged, but also potentially to be eligible to work again as a caregiver in another setting. As such, Oakley started a petition to encourage lawmakers to change the language of California Penal Code 1203.4, which permits certain crimes to be expunged. While the law makes clear that some crimes are not eligible to be sealed or expunged, as the article explains, crimes that fall under Chapter 13—“the one for abusing elderly and disabled people”—is not currently listed as a crime ineligible for expungement.
As such, persons convicted of crimes against elderly or disabled Californians can be eligible to have those records sealed or expunged. Oakley’s petition seeks to change that aspect of the law so that anyone convicted of a crime against a vulnerable person under the law cannot be eligible to have that record hidden.
Implications of Expunging a Record of Elder Abuse
What happens when an abuser’s criminal record is expunged? As Oakley explains, “that means, as per his expunged criminal record, he doesn’t have to tell an employer he was convicted of abusing a vulnerable adult . . . or that he lost his nursing license.” She underscores the importance of making a change to the law, noting that “a justice system that allows caregivers convicted of abusing disabled persons to hide . . . is a threat to public safety,” and that “people that physically harm vulnerable adults are dangerous people.”
Many people applying for care are required to submit to background checks, but when a record is expunged, it may be difficult for an employer to learn about an applicant’s history. While the decision to expunge a record is up to the discretion of the judge and must be in the “interests of justice,” the article raises questions about risks of nursing home abuse from staff members with histories of crimes against elders and other vulnerable adults.
Contact an Escondido Elder Abuse Lawyer
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(image courtesy of Byron Johnson)