Philadelphia has more than 1.5 million people, and about 14% are 65 years or older. While society rarely talks about it, seniors are sometimes arrested and charged with crimes. For many, this is their first experience with the legal system, but regardless, the elderly usually have unique concerns when dealing with criminal accusations.

Whatever the circumstances, we enjoy working with senior clients and work hard to get the result they need. Give Fienman Defense a call at (215) 839-9529 or use the online form to request a free consultation.

Common Criminal Charges Against the Elderly

Anytime seniors are arrested, they need an experienced defense attorney who understands what they are going through and what’s at stake. At Fienman Defense, we regularly defend elderly individuals charged with:

  • Driving Under the Influence (DUI): Police might arrest and charge a senior with a DUI for alcohol or drugs, including prescriptions. An elderly driver might be wrongly arrested for a DUI because their physical capabilities have diminished, and they should not drive. Many defendants can avoid jail for a first-time DUI. But a drug DUI is taken very seriously, and a senior could face much harsher penalties.
  • Theft: 19% of Philadelphia seniors live in poverty. Desperation can lead anyone to steal clothing, food, and other necessities. Many thefts crimes are misdemeanors unless they involve more than $2,000 worth of money or property. Misdemeanors can still lead to months or years in prison without a strong defense.
  • Fraud: Older individuals can be charged with food stamp, insurance, credit card, and other fraud types. Many of these crimes are felonies, but even misdemeanor fraud charges can lead to time in custody.
  • Domestic Violence: Older adults accused of hurting a spouse, family member, or caregiver can be arrested. If the alleged victim is a relative or romantic partner, the senior will face domestic violence charges. Even a misdemeanor for assault can lead to one or more years in prison.
  • Sex Crimes: Prosecutors frequently charge seniors with sexually charged offenses like indecent exposure, indecent assault, sexual assault, child pornography, and other sex crimes. Their behavior may be based on a misunderstanding or lack of comprehension but interpreted by others as flashing, peeping, or groping. If convicted, they face years in prison and sex offender registration.

Whether you or your senior loved one face misdemeanor or felony charges, hire a lawyer who has worked with elderly defendants before. Michael H. Fienman is passionate about helping seniors in Philadelphia avoid convictions.

Concerns for Senior Defendants

At Fienman Defense, we understand senior defendants face unique challenges:

  • Jail: Being in jail is challenging for anyone, but it is particularly hard on someone less physically or mentally capable.
  • Medical care: Many seniors have medical conditions and need on-going care and prescriptions. But jails are not known for having robust medical facilities. Elderly defendants might not receive adequate care while in jail. An older person may suffer from a medical or mental health condition, like dementia, and need social services more than punishment.
  • Embarrassment: Seniors arrested for the first time or after decades are embarrassed to tell their friends and family. This can prevent them from asking for help or isolate them.
  • Reputation: Being arrested and charged with a crime can harm an older person’s reputation. This is deeply troubling for a leader in a community, church, profession, or non-profit.
  • Career: Working seniors often worry about how the case will impact their careers. Those with a professional license may need to fight to keep it. This is particularly concerning for seniors who must work well after their retirement age.
  • Social Security: The Social Security Administration will not pay anyone imprisoned for more than 30 days during their incarceration. This loss impacts seniors’ families too. While eligible dependent spouses and children can continue receiving payments, others who rely on the income may face financial hardship.

How Fienman Defense Helps Older Defendants

First and foremost, we focus on getting elderly defendants released from custody. Typically, we can secure a senior’s release with a low-bail amount or none at all for low-level charges. We usually can show the judge that your senior loved one is not a danger to the public.
The next step is carefully reviewing the facts of the arrest. Did someone make a complaint? Were they allegedly caught in the act? We also look for evidence that may support the senior’s defense, including witnesses or if a medical condition such as Alzheimer’s or dementia impacted their personality and behavior.

Another step is reviewing an elderly defendant’s background. It helps when this is a first-time offense or the senior’s first arrest in many years. The courts are more lenient when we show their behavior is out of character or linked to a medical condition or dire circumstances.
Once we understand the senior’s situation, we may pursue getting the case dropped or the charges reduced. We often can talk directly with the prosecutor about what is appropriate.

Many times, charges do not move forward against seniors after low-level, non-violent incidents. But prosecutors do not go easy on defendants when they are older. To a prosecutor, a crime is a crime. They may push forward with charges. We will file a motion to dismiss or fight for an acquittal at trial.

Sentencing for Elderly Defendants

You may assume judges will give light sentences to elderly defendants. But many prosecutors and judges believe there is no reason to give someone an easier punishment for a crime because of advanced age.

With that in mind, we carefully build our defense strategy. Our goal is to avoid conviction. When that is not possible, we try to mitigate the consequences of a conviction.

We will fight to convince a judge to sentence an elderly defendant to home confinement and probation. It helps to show the senior’s clean prior record or that the senior needs significant medical or mental health care, which would be a drain on the prison system.

Call a Defense Lawyer for the Elderly Today

When a senior faces criminal charges in Philadelphia, their health, freedom, and well-being are at stake. It is crucial to hire an aggressive and capable defense attorney to deal with the matter properly.

Michael H. Fienman is a local criminal defense attorney with considerable experience and a track record of success representing seniors.

Give Fienman Defense a call at (215) 839-9529 or use the online form to request a free, confidential consultation. Attorney Fienman will explain your options and walk you through the next steps.