MONTGOMERY – Planning on taking advantage of Alabama’s seniors?  You may want to think again.  The bill known as the Protecting Alabama’s Elders Act passed the House last night which will create new articles in the Criminal Code to combat elder abuse and financial exploitation.  It passed the Senate earlier in the session.  


"As public officials it is our moral obligation to protect senior citizens from both physical and financial predators. This legislation will defend our seniors from the criminals who prey on them," stated Senator Cam Ward, Sponsor of the Senate version, 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. 


"I am pleased the legislature passed this important legislation so we can make sure law enforcement have the tools that they need to prosecute those who attempt to take advantage of Alabama's seniors," explained Representative Paul DeMarco, Sponsor of the House version, HB 45.  “I am pleased that the legislature recognized the importance of this bill.”   

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.


“Combating elder abuse has been a top priority of Governor Bentley,” explained Neal Morrison, Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Senior Services which is the Lead Agency designated for the Council.  “I am so glad we were able to collaborate with the 30 agencies and organizations who participate in the Council to pull together and stand in a united front to protect our seniors.  We will not stand by and watch quietly as our seniors are taken advantage of.”


The legislation will 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. 


“This is truly a phenomenal piece of legislation.  Many people in our state came together and created a much needed and long overdue bill for seniors that has now passed,” stated Nancy Buckner, Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Human Resources.  “This process is a model of how entities with common interests can and do work together.  The elder abuse act sends a message to those who might abuse or exploit seniors that Alabama will not tolerate it!”


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.



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