DES MOINES, IOWA (June 30, 2022) — Elder abuse will become a specific criminal offense in Iowa for the first time on July 1.

This year, the Iowa House and Senate unanimously passed Senate File 522, which was signed into law by Governor Kim Reynolds. The legislation creates criminal penalties for elder abuse and enhances tools for law enforcement.

Attorney General Tom Miller supported the legislation, and for several years, his office has proposed bills making elder abuse a crime on its own and increasing penalties for financial exploitation.

“I appreciate AARP Iowa for its hard work in getting this bill passed, and I thank legislators,” AG Miller said. “I hope this law deters and prevents abuse and exploitation, and I expect that the public will now understand that crimes against older people won't be tolerated.”

The law defines elder abuse as "the abuse, emotional abuse, neglect, isolation, or sexual exploitation of an older individual” — a person sixty years or older — and establishes penalties ranging from a serious misdemeanor to a Class B felony, depending on the circumstances and resulting injuries of the abuse.

See a video explaining the new law.

The law also establishes the crimes of:

Theft Against an Older Individual: The law enhances the penalties for the existing crime of theft by one degree, if the perpetrator “knew or should have known” the target was an older individual.

Financial Exploitation of an Older Individual: This crime occurs when a person stands in a position of trust or confidence with an older individual and knowingly, and by undue influence, deception, coercion, fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, or extortion, obtains control over or otherwise uses the benefits, property, resources, belongings, or assets of the older individual involved to the detriment of the older individual. The criminal penalties range from a serious misdemeanor to a Class-B felony based on the amount of benefits, property, resources, belongings, or assets of the older individual involved.

Older Individual Assault: Assaulting an individual who is sixty years or older is now punishable by penalties ranging from a simple misdemeanor to a Class-D felony depending on the circumstances of the assault. Unlike regular assault, the law enhances penalties for second or third offenses.

Previously, law enforcement and prosecutors had to fit cases into existing general crimes.

AG Miller said the enhanced penalties are important because abuse and exploitation older victims often struggle to recover from these crimes, whether they are physical, emotional, or financial.

“These crimes can be devastating for older Iowans, often leading to death,” he said.

To get help

AG Miller and AARP encourage older Iowans and their caregivers to turn to the Area Agencies on Aging for resources to fight elder abuse. To find your AAA, see the map on this page.

To prevent elder abuse, see the recommendations on the Iowa AG’s website.

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