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Vulnerable, elderly adult protection (new law)

Published (5/29/2009)
By Mike Cook
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A 20-year prison term and a felony charge for conviction of financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult when the stolen amount exceeds $35,000 is one provision of a new law.

Effective for crimes committed on or after Aug. 1, 2009, a new law makes various statutory changes based on recommendations from a working group comprised of 52 agencies, entities and organizations.

The law intends to help people like a 92-year-old St. Paul man who was befriended by a neighbor when he became frail and who bilked him out of almost $200,000. The woman put his home on the market without his knowledge, put an ad in the newspaper for a rummage sale of his belongings and left him to sit in a chair all day. She was ultimately sentenced to probation and repayment of funds.

Sponsored by Rep. Debra Hilstrom (DFL-Brooklyn Center) and Sen. Mee Moua (DFL-St. Paul), provisions of the law include:

• clearing up definitions of financial exploitation;

• extending the statute of limitations for criminal financial exploitation from three to five years when the exploitation exceeds $35,000;

• any business or financial institution that acts on good faith in telling authorities about suspected maltreatment or financial exploitation will be granted immunity from legal liability;

• the human services commissioner is to seek federal money to design, implement, maintain and evaluate a common entry point for reports of vulnerable adult maltreatment;

• a boarding care home, nursing home or hospital can submit a report of suspected maltreatment electronically, instead of submitting an oral report;

• the consent defense is removed in cases where the victim lacks the capacity to consent; and

• a civil cause of action is created for a vulnerable adult who is a victim of financial exploitation. Damages equal to three times the amount of compensatory damages or $10,000, whichever is greater, are authorized, as are attorneys’ fees and costs for a prevailing vulnerable adult.


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