Gov. Jay Nixon today signed Senate Bill 689, which strengthens protections for seniors and persons with disabilities.
The new law expands the definition of financial exploitation against seniors and persons with disabilities to include "undue influence". This change will give local prosecuting attorneys greater ability to go after those in a position of power who financially exploit senior citizens or persons with disabilities, including those with legal guardianship or power of attorney.
"As a state, we have an obligation to protect our seniors," Gov. Nixon said during a bill-signing ceremony at the Bridgeton Senior Center. "In the past, it has been difficult for prosecutors to file charges on these types of cases if the person committing the crime had legal status as a guardian or power of attorney. The changes I'm signing into law make it clear that, regardless of who you are, or what power you have over a person, financial exploitation of older Missourians is wrong; it is illegal; and the state will use the full force of the law to go after those who exploit vulnerable Missourians."
Previously, because of the legal status of a person who has guardianship or power of attorney, it was difficult to prove cases of financial exploitation of a dependent or client. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services reports that about one out of every five calls to the Elder Abuse Hotline is to report an allegation of financial exploitation.
The new law, which goes into effect Aug. 28, also makes it clear that the physical abuse of an elderly person or persons with disabilities is illegal, regardless of whether the injuries sustained were inflicted on purpose or were the result of reckless behavior. This allows prosecutors to pursue stiffer penalties for those who commit elder abuse.