Ward, DeMarco announce support for elder abuse legislation
By AMY JONES / Associate Editor
NORTH SHELBY — State and county dignitaries flocked to North Shelby’s Heardmont Senior Center Dec. 10 to show support for new elder abuse legislation.
The bill will be introduced in the upcoming legislative session.
State Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, and state Rep. Paul DeMarco, R-Homewood, spoke about the bill. Ward is sponsoring the bill in the Senate, while DeMarco is sponsoring the bill in the House.
According to an Alabama Department of Senior Services statement, the proposed bill would create additional criminal penalties for elder abuse, neglect and financial exploitation. Currently, the penalties are found in the Adult Protective Services Act and apply only to victims who are considered “protected.”
The proposed legislation would add new sections to the Alabama criminal code to provide law enforcement and prosecutors new avenues to prosecute those who abuse or exploit seniors. The new sections of the code would apply to victims 60 years of age or older, according to the state Department of Senior Services.
Ward said senior citizens are at high risk of being exploited financially, and it’s important to pass a bill now to give seniors additional protections.
“This is one of those (bills) everybody should be supportive of,” Ward said. “We are committed to having the strongest and the best laws in the country to protect our seniors.”
DeMarco said he hopes the bill will be passed within six months.
“What’s so exciting is that people are paying attention to this. They’re paying attention to what we can do for our seniors,” he said. “This is an opportunity to go in and look for those loopholes where some of you have been taken advantage of.”
Gov. Robert Bentley was slated to speak at the event, but was unable to attend. In a press release, Bentley said he’s committed to stopping elder abuse in Alabama.
“It is unfortunate that some people have harmed or taken advantage of the elderly. There are criminals out there who see them as easy targets,” Bentley said in the release. “Once we approve this legislation, the penalties will be a lot tougher. And it is my hope that by strengthening our laws, perhaps would-be criminals will think twice and avoid committing a crime altogether.”