Capital Clicks

House unanimously passes elder abuse penalties

By: - March 24, 2022 1:18 pm

(Photo by RUNSTUDIO/Getty Images)

The Iowa House unanimously passed a bill Wednesday to create new penalties for elder abuse.

Senate File 522 sets criminal charges — ranging from misdemeanors to felonies — for abusing, assaulting or financially exploiting an elderly person, defined as someone age 60 or older.

Rep. Dustin Hite, a lawyer, said he had seen many cases of elder abuse, committed both by trusted individuals and “hucksters.”

“Many of us have dealt with these situations, whether it involves family members, friends, neighbors, you name it… What this bill does is it provides additional protections for older Iowans to ensure that, in the state of Iowa, they’re not being taken advantage of,” Hite, R-New Sharon, said.

Rep. Marti Anderson said the legal system cannot fully protect elderly people from family issues. But she supported the passage of the bill, arguing the penalties will be an important tool for victims.

“I have seen families over the years where this bill would have helped them hold someone accountable for financial exploitation or for assault or for elder abuse in a way that we don’t have in our law right now,” Anderson, D-Des Moines, said.

Rep. Mary Wolfe, D-Clinton, also supported the bill, though she raised concerns that crimes against an elderly person would result in higher penalties than crimes against younger people.

“Personally, I don’t think that as soon as I turn 60, somehow a person who assaults me or steals from me should be more heavily sanctioned than someone who does it against someone who is 59,” Wolfe said. 

The House passed the bill unanimously. It’s an amended version of a Senate bill passed in 2021, so the upper chamber will need to pass the new version of the legislation before it is signed into law.

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Katie Akin
Katie Akin

Katie Akin is a former Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter. Katie began her career as an intern at PolitiFact, debunking viral fake news and fact-checking state and national politicians. She moved to Iowa in 2019 for a politics internship at the Des Moines Register, where she assisted with Iowa Caucus coverage, multimedia projects and the Register’s Iowa Poll. She became the Register’s retail reporter in early 2020, chronicling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Central Iowa’s restaurants and retailers.