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February 26, 2014

Prosecuting Elder Abuse Bill Goes to Committees

By Cindy Swirko
Staff writer
February 22, 2014

With elder exploitation already a problem in a state rich with seniors, a proposed bill that may make it easier to prosecute cases is making its way through legislative committees.
House Bill 409 proposes to modify existing laws to create a "presumption of exploitation" when someone takes advantage of an elderly or disabled victim. It also would provide criminal penalties for joint holders of a senior or disabled person's bank account who take money for their personal use.
Gainesville attorney Shannon Miller, who specializes in elder law, is part of a panel of lawyers, legislators and others from across Florida who developed the bill.
"When it comes to getting these criminal cases prosecuted we have literally beat our heads against the wall. Before this year we had no prosecutions in Alachua County on elder exploitation cases. None. Not a single prosecution," Miller said. "The problem the prosecutors have had is the statutes are really hard. You have to prove deception and intimidation. This legislation that is pending is literally groundbreaking."
Area prosecutors are mixed on whether proposed changes would help. Eighth Circuit State Attorney Bill Cervone, in Gainesville, believes they would, while Fifth Circuit Assistant State Attorney Mark Simpson, in Ocala, is skeptical. Simpson heads the special prosecutions unit.
The presumption of exploitation would apply when someone is not a family number, has known the victim fewer than two years and a transfer of assets occurred. The victim must be disabled or more than 60 years old.
Miller said no other state has such a presumption.
Cervone said a presumption of exploitation would make it easier to prosecute cases.

Abridged
SOURCE:      Gainsville Sun
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Any Charges Reported on this blog are Merely Accusations and the Defendants are Presumed Innocent Unless and Until Proven Guilty.

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