Proposed Bill Makes Elder Abuse Crimes in Washington State More Serious
Those considering taking advantage of a vulnerable adult need to think carefully about that decision. In February, the Washington Senate unanimously passed House Bill 1153, and once it is signed into law by Governor Jay Inslee, Washington’s previously lenient penalties for this serious crime will get quite a bit tougher.
What the Bill Says About Financial Exploitation
Under House Bill 1153, vulnerable adults are defined as anyone age 18 or older who has a physical or mental impairment that makes self-care impossible. It also defines a new crime entitled “theft involving a vulnerable adult.” Under the new category, stealing from these vulnerable adults will be considered more serious than a normal theft crime. As elder abuse attorneys, the team at Garcia & Artigliere & Faulkner thinks this is an excellent change.
Under current legislation, theft involving a senior adult can lead to 0-90 days in county jail, provided the guilty party had no prior criminal history. This is not much of a deterrent, and because of the vulnerability of the elderly population, elder abuse and theft is quite common. In fact, Washington’s adult protective services received close to 8,700 complaints about financial abuse of the elderly in 2016.
The new legislation once passed, will increase this basic penalty to 12-14 months. Offenders with a past criminal history could face up to 8 1/2 years in prison. This serves as a stronger deterrent, which should help reduce the number of crimes in the coming years.
Clearer Terms for Mistreatment
Another danger facing the elderly population is mistreatment and neglect, and the bill also defines these terms more clearly to make prosecution easier. Under the current legislation, those guilty of negligence could only be handed felony criminal mistreatment charges if the jury could prove they were guilty of recklessness. Overall negligence often didn’t fall into this category. The proposed legislation changes the term to “criminal negligence,” which is much easier to prove.
If this new legislation passes, as expected, it will make it much easier to hold those guilty of elder abuse accountable for their crimes, with stricter penalties for these serious attacks on one of the most vulnerable populations in the state. If you suspect that someone you love has been the victim of an elder abuse crime, talk to the elder abuse lawyers at Garcia & Artigliere today to discuss your options. Call us at (800) 328-2630.