A bill that would strengthen penalties against elder abuse in Iowa passed the House of Representatives unanimously a couple of weeks ago and will now head to the desk of Governor Kim Reynolds for approval after the state senate also cleared it.

According to the Des Moines Register, the legislation will increase punishments for assaults and thefts against Iowans 60 or older, essentially criminalizing certain types of elder abuse.

It adds a newly-named criminal charge of "financial exploitation of an older individual" and defines "elder abuse" to include emotional abuse, neglect, isolation, and sexual exploitation of older Iowans.

Spelling out the punishment for the crimes

The following acts against individuals 60 and older in Iowa would now be punishable by their respective penalties:

  • Assault of an older individual: simple misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and $855 in fines, to a class D felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and up to $10,245 in fines — depending on the severity of the crime.
  • Theft against an older individual: Raises the penalties of Iowa's existing theft charges by one degree.
  • Elder abuse: ranges from a serious misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in prison and $2,560 in fines, to a Class C felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and up to $13,660 in fines.
  • Financial exploitation of an older individual: ranging from a serious misdemeanor to a class B felony, is punishable by up to 25 years in prison, based on the severity of the crime.

Representative Dustin Hite introduced this bill, Senate File 522. Prior to the bill's introduction and imminent passing upon Governor Reynolds' signature, Iowa was the only state not to criminalize these acts to this degree.  Until now, the only recourse for abused and exploited elderly Iowans was to "sue and hope for courts to block the abuser from having contact with them or from exercising financial oversight or other types of legal authority over them."

It appears that we will finally be rectifying that, and it's about time.

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