What is the new PROTECT Act of California?

On September 23, 2021, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill (AB) 1243 into law. The new bill increases protections for elders experiencing forced isolation. When AB 1243 goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2023, concerned friends and family members will be able to seek relief for suffering loved ones.

If someone you care about is a victim of elder abuse, having an experienced attorney on your side can help you stop the abuse. Belgum, Fry & Van Allen is the leading personal injury attorney in Los Angeles and the greater Southern California area. To receive a free case evaluation, click here.

What is the PROTECT Act?

The Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act, or Assembly Bill 1243, lets interested parties petition the court for protective orders forbidding the isolation of an elder or dependent adult. The bill defines an interested party as someone with a demonstrable relationship with a vulnerable person. Prior versions of the Elder Abuse Act only allowed the elder or dependent adult and their legal representatives to file claims.

Why the PROTECT Act is Necessary

California’s Elder Abuse Act was first enacted in 1982. The comprehensive law was designed to protect the infirm and elderly from mistreatment and abuse.

The new PROTECT act, AB 1243, was born during the pandemic. Social distancing rules and virus concerns are keeping numerously disadvantaged and vulnerable adults away from their loved ones. The usual forms of social interaction, like visits from family and activities at the local senior center, are no longer possible in many areas.

In this situation, elder and dependent adults can easily lose their support system. An unscrupulous person might then take advantage of their fragile, isolated position to abuse and neglect them. AB 1243 was written to prevent bad actors from trying to hide their behavior by breaking off the vulnerable adult’s healthy relationships. The bill introduces anti-isolation restraining orders.

How the PROTECT Act Affects Elder Care

Isolation occurs when vulnerable adults are cut off from the people who care about them.

If a judge grants an anti-isolation restraining order against the person abusing your friend or family member, that person will no longer be able to keep you from speaking to your loved one. The law explicitly mentions access to remote communication like online video chats. If the elder was not being abused in any other way, the anti-isolation restraining order will not be reported to the Department of Justice.

AB 1243 introduces a new class of interested parties. You don’t have to be a relative or legal representative to petition the court for an anti-isolation restraining order. You just have to demonstrate that you have a preexisting relationship with the vulnerable adult. If your friend is being kept from you, you can now petition the court to protect your right to see and contact them.

To successfully obtain an anti-isolation restraining order against the perpetrator, you must prove that your friend wants to talk to you and that the perpetrator has repeatedly interfered with your interactions. You also must demonstrate that you yourself aren’t abusive.

If the elder or dependent adult has trouble making their wishes known, the court will try to interpret what they want to the best of its ability.

AB 1243 does not apply if the elder or dependent adult is a current patient in a health care facility or lives in a long-term care or residential home.

Take the Next Steps

Elder abuse and neglect should never be ignored. If you suspect that your loved one is being deliberately isolated, Belgum, Fry & Van Allen can help you figure out the next steps. To contact us or to learn more, click here.

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