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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
DES MOINES — Legislation increasing penalties for people convicted of abusing, assaulting or exploiting older Iowans was approved 95-0 Wednesday.
“Many of us have dealt with these situations, whether it involves family members, friends, neighbors, you name it,” said Republican Rep. Dustin Hite, a New Sharon attorney. “Whether it's a family member, whether it's a huckster or whether it's somebody else that this person trusts, we see that they can take advantage of what can be some of our most vulnerable Iowans.”
Senate File 522 “ensures that we have added protections for Iowans who need it,” Hite said. The bill was amended by the House, so it will return to the Senate, which previously approved it 47-0, before going to the governor.
There was some discussion whether enhanced penalties will reduce assault, abuse and exploitation. Hite said, “When somebody picks on the most vulnerable of Iowans, they deserve a harsher punishment.”
AARP Iowa praised the Legislature for creating criminal sanctions for elder abuse and fix the existing gap in tools available to law enforcement and financial institutions to stop and prevent exploitation.
“Passage of this bill comes at a critical time when elder abuse is on the rise in Iowa and across the country,” said AARP state Director Brad Anderson.
The bill establishes several crimes, including assault of someone 60 and older. Charges would range from a simple misdemeanor to a Class D felony depending on the circumstances of the assault.
Charges for financial exploitation of an older person would range from a serious misdemeanor to a Class B felony, based on the amount of assets involved.
Charges for elder abuse would range from a serious misdemeanor to a Class C felony, depending on injuries.
“What this bill does, is it says to those people that are looking for vulnerable victims, not here,” Hite said. “You’re not going to do it here.”
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