From the Department of Senior Services
MONTGOMERY – Both Judiciary Committees, in the House and the Senate, gave SB 29 and HB 45 favorable reports during the first week of the 2013 Legislative Session. The bills will now move for discussion and final passage on the House and Senate Floor. If passed, the bills will become the Protecting Alabama’s Elders Act. The companion bills are proposing to create new articles in the Criminal Code to combat elder abuse and financial exploitation.
“As public officials it is our moral obligation to protect senior citizens from both physical and financial predators. The well being of defenseless seniors from these criminals will be a top priority during this legislative session,” stated Senator Cam Ward, Sponsor of the Senate bill, SB 29.
This legislation will strengthen Alabama’s laws to protect our seniors and provide our law enforcement agencies with the tools needed to punish those who hurt them. If passed, the legislation would create additional section(s) in the criminal code for elder abuse, neglect and financial exploitation. These new sections will provide law enforcement and prosecutors with additional avenues to prosecute elder abuse, neglect and financial exploitation.
Currently, the penalties are found in the Adult Protective Services Act and apply only to victims who could be categorized as a “protected person” but anyone can be scammed or abused. The proposed legislation does not change the current APS penalties, but adds new sections to the Alabama criminal code. The new criminal code sections would apply to victims who are 60 years of age or older, regardless of mental competency, so all that law enforcement officials will have to prove is the victim’s age.
Elder abuse and neglect can be prosecuted as first degree, second degree, or third degree abuse or neglect depending on the type and severity of harm to the victim. The penalties range from a class A misdemeanor for elder abuse and neglect in the third degree to a class A felony for intentional abuse or neglect which causes serious physical injury. A class A felony carries a sentence of ten (10) years to life in Alabama.
The financial exploitation penalties apply to elderly victims (60 and older) who have been exploited by deception, intimidation, undue influence, force, or threat of force. Additionally, agents under a power of attorney, guardians, and conservators who exploit the person they have a responsibility to may be subject to the criminal penalties. The financial exploitation penalties range from a class A misdemeanor for exploitation of money or property totaling $500 or less to a class B felony for exploitation of money or property exceeding $2,500. A class B felony carries a sentence of two (2) to twenty (20) years in Alabama.
“This legislation is important to give the tools to law enforcement that they need to prosecute those who attempt to take advantage of Alabama’s seniors,” explained Representative Paul DeMarco, House Sponsor of bill HB 45. “I am pleased that the legislature recognizes the importance of this bill and has acted swiftly to put it in place.”
The legislation was drafted by the Alabama Council for the Prevention of Elder Abuse which was created during the 2012 Legislation Session. The Council has approximately 30 agencies and organizations who participate.
“This legislation is a collaborative effort between 30 agencies and organizations who participate in the Council and shows how dedicated this administration is to protecting Alabama’s seniors,” explained Neal Morrison, Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Senior Services which is the Lead Agency designated for the Council.