Sen. Cam Ward, Rep. DeMarco, Commissioner Neal Morrison, John Craft and several members of the Alabama Interagency Council for the Prevention of Elder Abuse were in Birmingham today to announce legislation, authored a committee chaired by Faulkner Law's John Craft, that will be introduced in the upcoming legislative session. The legislation will create new articles in the Criminal Code to combat elder abuse.
“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.
The proposed legislation creates additional criminal penalties for 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”. The proposed legislation does not change the current APS penalties, but adds new sections to the Alabama criminal code. These new sections will provide law enforcement and prosecutors with additional avenues to prosecute elder abuse, neglect and financial exploitation. The new criminal code sections would apply to victims who are 60 years of age or older, regardless of mental competency.
The legislation is proposing that elder abuse and neglect 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 10 years to life in Alabama.
“It is unfortunate that some people have harmed or taken advantage of the elderly. There are criminals out there who see them as easy targets. But we want to put a stop to elder abuse,” Governor Robert Bentley said. “Once we approve this legislation, the penalties will be a lot tougher. And it is my hope that by strengthening our laws, perhaps would-be criminals will think twice and avoid committing a crime altogether.”
There is also a financial exploitation section to protect 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 to 20 years in Alabama.
The Alabama Interagency Council for the Prevention of Elder Abuse was created by legislation in the 2012 Legislative Session.