After Defendant’s Alleged Assault of Her Elderly Mother “Neglect of An Elderly Person” Charge Overturned
Appellate Docket No.: A-2555-19
Decided and published February 14, 2022
Submitted by New Jersey Civil Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark
In a recently published opinion, the Appellate Division of New Jersey overturned a conviction of neglect of an elderly person pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:24-8(a) after defendant’s alleged assault of her elderly mother.
In State v. M.K.P., in January 2017, I.P. (Irene), facing eviction, moved from Florida to the Englewood home of defendant, who is her daughter, and defendant’s paramour, F.L. (Fred). According to testimony, Irene and defendant had a “[t]ypical mother and daughter” relationship, ranging from affectionate to tense. On August 5, 2018, defendant and Fred went out to lunch with friends, leaving Irene home alone until around 3:00 p.m. Defendant had consumed alcohol at lunch, continued to drink after getting home and, according to testimony, was slightly intoxicated. While Fred sat in the living room, he heard Irene and defendant arguing in a nearby bedroom. The argument escalated into a “screaming” match and Fred entered the bedroom to “quell the quarreling.” On entering, Fred observed Irene with her back to a wall shaking a back scratcher at defendant while defendant gripped Irene’s hands to avoid being struck. Because the pair “were going back and forth with each other still,” Fred used “a little bit of force” to physically pull defendant out of the room. Defendant, however, reentered the room three more times to reengage with Irene; each time, Fred physically removed her. Fred testified he did not observe anything wrong with Irene’s face, though he also admitted he was suffering from a cataract and could only see “gray” and generally a “person’s form.” Defendant remained on the couch with Fred that evening, and Irene remained in the bedroom. Fred did not see that defendant had sustained any injuries.
Police arrived at a different residence and found Irene on the front yard. The officer observed injuries and arrested defendant. Defendant was charged with one count of third-degree aggravated assault, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(b)(12), and one count of third-degree neglect of an elderly person, N.J.S.A. 2C:24-8(a). A jury convicted defendant of a lesser charge of simple assault and a neglect of an elderly person.
Defendant appealed the conviction, arguing her actions do not violate the neglect of an elderly person statute. N.J.S.A. 2C:24- 8(a) makes it a third-degree offense for a person, in the relationship defendant was in with Irene, to “abandon” or “unreasonably neglect to do or fail to permit to be done any act necessary for the physical or mental health” of the elderly person. The Appellate Division reversed the conviction and found that defendant’s actions of the alleged assault to not trigger the statute, as it was an assault and not neglect of her mother.
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