Act To Protect Elders and Vulnerable Adults from ExploitationFebruary 20, 2013
Come next Wednesday, March 13th, at 10:00 to support LD 527, An Act to Protect Elders and Vulnerable Adults from Exploitation. The public hearing on this bill will be held at the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, Room 436 in the State House. Note, you must go through screening to enter this building, so please arrive early.
The Maine Association of Area Agencies on Aging, in collaboration with many partners in the aging network have supported the drafting of this bill, which is a very measured response to a serious and very troubling issue – exploitation of our most vulnerable population. Here are some facts:
· In 2012, the Department of Justice estimated that 1 in 9 people over 60 will be a victim of elder abuse and exploitation this year – that’s 33,000 people in Maine.
· Older Adults who are abused/mistreated are 3 times more likely to die within the next decade then the same age adults who are not mistreated.
· 90% of abusers are relatives, friends or caregivers. Very few are strangers.
· 38,000 Mainers currently have some form of dementia. Executive functioning – the ability to make clear decisions – is often the first thing to go when people are cognitively impaired.
· Very few victims report abuse and exploitation because they are dependent on the perpetrator for their care and they are afraid of institutionalization.
· Law enforcement and prosecutors have good hearts but resources are very limited and cases involving victims who cannot testify because of impairment or who are unwilling to because of fear are very difficult to investigate and even harder to prosecute, particularly if the victim “consented” to the crime. Consent is a defense that perpetrators can and do raise in relation to financial exploitation or misuse of entrusted funds.
LD 527 takes a first step at trying to address this issue by clarifying the definition of “consent” in Maine’s criminal code. It clarifies that consent cannot be given by a person with dementia or cognitive impairment and that “undue influence” is a unique form of duress and deception, two things that cannot induce consent. Finally, it raises the severity of the crime of Misuse of Entrusted Property to a felony if the amounts misused are the same as those in the crimes of theft.
This bill will need a good turnout – our legislators need to hear that the public is not ok with the status quo when it comes to elder abuse and exploitation. Far too often, as I just heard in a case yesterday, financial exploitation is followed by other crimes, like physical and sexual assault. Law enforcement and prosecutors need a better chance to investigate and bring these cases forward without having perpetrators claim the defense of consent.
If you can’t make the hearing, please consider sending your written testimony to the Committee by close of business on the 13th. Your written testimony can be submitted to the Committee Clerk, Suzanne Armstrong at suzanne.armstrong@legislature.
If you need help with your testimony, please contact us.
National Issues Advocacy