Dementia Defense Lawyer

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Dementia Defense Lawyer

Dementia Defense Attorney

Defending people with dementia requires thinking outside the box. This can be especially true when someone with dementia is accused of committing a crime. In instances like these, it’s critical to have representation from a criminal defense attorney who has experience representing clients with dementia. Elizabeth Kelley has that experience, along with a nationwide practice focused on representing clients with mental disabilities. Learn why she is a trusted dementia defense attorney.

She has a deep understanding of dementia and vast experience helping clients with the condition who were charged with committing crimes. As the editor of the publication Representing People With Dementia: A Practical Guide for Criminal Defense Lawyers, she is considered an authority on the subject. If someone you love with autism has been accused of a crime, she can help you navigate the legal process.

Family, friends, defense counsel, and the courts may be dismayed by the fact that an older individual, particularly one who has up until this point, led a productive, law-abiding life, is now in trouble with the law. It might be shocking to witness, but it’s common for people with certain types of dementia to lose their cognitive abilities and control over their behavior. Their actions often become impulsive, erratic, and out of line with their previously known character.

What Is Dementia?

Dementia is not necessarily a disease but rather a condition or group of conditions. It is marked by the decline of an elderly individual’s memory, problem-solving skills, and decision-making abilities. Occasional forgetfulness is common with the aging process, but dementia goes beyond that. Someone with dementia might get lost in the neighborhood they’ve lived in their entire life or forget the names of their son or daughter. There are multiple types of dementia, which include:

  • Alzheimer’s disease. The most prevalent type of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, can lead to short- and long-term memory loss in addition to personality changes.
  • Frontal-temporal dementia. People with this type of dementia are known to display unusual behavior because of the part of their brain that is affected by this condition.
  • Vascular dementia. Limited blood flow to the brain, caused by conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure, can impair cognitive function and lead to this type of dementia.

In some instances, an individual might have more than one type of dementia, which can be hard to detect due to overlapping symptoms. Dementia can progress quickly and lead to significant changes in a person’s behavior and personality. These can come at a fast rate that alarms their loved ones.

Dementia and Crime

Because individuals with dementia have impaired control over their impulses and decision-making abilities, it’s not uncommon for someone with dementia to exhibit odd or taboo behavior. In some cases, their actions might cross the line from strange or socially inappropriate to illegal.

For example, a person with dementia might be lost and enter someone else’s home in error, leading to their arrest for trespassing. Another example could be a person with dementia being cited for public urination. While they are simply following their body’s natural queues, they lack the ability to distinguish what is socially acceptable and what is illegal to do in public.

Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for people with dementia to become violent or aggressive due to their confused state. Their aggression may sometimes become extreme and lead to the physical assault of someone around them, such as a family member or a healthcare worker.

A physical assault can escalate the severity of the criminal charges that the person with dementia may face. Whereas trespassing and public urination are typically less severe crimes, physical assault might be taken more seriously as a violent crime. Physical assault could be considered a felony in some cases, especially when the victim sustained serious injuries.

Dementia and the Criminal Justice System

The criminal justice system is not the place for someone with dementia. Jail, or worse, prison, would be absolute torture. People with dementia need a high level of care that jails and prisons likely cannot provide. The criminal justice system can be a dangerous place for people with dementia. The conditions in jails and prisons could worsen their condition and might contribute to an overall decline in their health.

Dementia and Competency to Stand Trial

Someone in the early stages of dementia might seem competent (under the legal standard), but that could quickly change. And if someone is found incompetent, because of the progressive nature of their condition, they can never be restored under the legal definition.

A team of experts is needed to interview, test, conduct neuroimaging, and suggest appropriate placement. Probation may not be a good solution because an individual with dementia may not be capable of completing all the tasks required. Moreover, probation can place additional burdens on the primary caregiver. She can provide recommendations for how to approach your loved one’s case from a legal perspective.

The goal is to keep these vulnerable and sometimes volatile individuals from re-offending, as well as to treat them with humanity with due consideration given to their condition.

To read a chapter on Testing by Margaret S. Russell, Esq. and Dr. Robert Ouauo from her book on Dementia, please click “Download File” to access the PDF linked below:

elizabeth-kelley-dementia-chapter-5.pdf Download File


Q: Where Do You Put Dementia Patients With Aggressive Behavior?

A: Dementia patients who have aggressive behavior and their families can benefit from them becoming a resident of a medical facility. These establishments offer dedicated memory care services for dementia patients. It is understandable if you don’t want your family member with dementia to feel abandoned, but their safety and yours could be at risk when their behavior becomes aggressive or violent.

Memory care facilities can help keep your family member or loved one with dementia safe and healthy.

Q: Who Is Responsible for a Person With Dementia?

A: The person responsible for an individual with dementia will likely be their spouse or the person who is named their legal conservator. When someone is diagnosed with dementia, it’s advisable to establish a legal conservatorship. The person who is named the conservator has the legal right to make decisions regarding the healthcare and estate of the person with dementia.

Q: What Are Three Things to Never Do With Your Loved One Who Has Dementia?

A: Three things to never do with your loved one with dementia include arguing with them, asking them if they remember something, and correcting them about something they tell you that you know is incorrect. These three things can upset your loved one with dementia and lead to them becoming even more confused. In some situations, this confusion can lead to their aggression.

Q: Is It Illegal to Leave Someone With Dementia Alone?

A: No, it is not illegal to leave someone with dementia alone. However, if they are left alone and they do something that results in physical harm to themselves, you could be charged with elder abuse if you are designated as their caregiver. Additionally, it can be unsafe to leave someone with dementia alone. They could slip and fall, or they could forget that they turned the stove on and create a fire hazard. It is not usually safe to leave someone with dementia alone.

Legal Defense for People With Dementia

Elizabeth Kelley works with compassion and sensitivity when representing defendants in criminal cases who have dementia. Her thorough understanding of the legal system, combined with her knowledge of dementia and its effects on an individual’s behavior, make her a trusted dementia defense lawyer for clients across the United States. Contact her today to request a consultation.

Request A Consultation

Call 509.991.7058 or fill out our online contact form.