Gretchen Schuldt

Evers Signs Bill Getting Tough On Crimes Against Elderly

Longer sentences for elder abuse, other crimes against those 60 or older.

By , Wisconsin Justice Initiative - Aug 17th, 2021 02:36 pm
Gov. Tony Evers. File photo by Emily Hamer/Wisconsin Watch.

Gov. Tony Evers. File photo by Emily Hamer/Wisconsin Watch.

Gov. Tony Evers has signed into law tougher new penalties for crimes committed against anyone at least 60 years old.

The bill also allows older people seeking a domestic violence, individual-at-risk, or harassment restraining order to appear in a court hearing by telephone or through audiovisual means. Currently, people seeking restraining orders appear in court in person.

“Aging and older Wisconsinites are particularly vulnerable to financial and physical abuse and exploitation, and unfortunately, we are seeing a devastating and concerning rise in these crimes,” Evers said. “This bill is an important bipartisan action to help put an end to elder abuse and protect some of our most vulnerable loved ones and neighbors.”

​Evers ran for office promising to reduce the prison population.

Under the new law:

  • Any second-degree sexual assault against an “elder,” as the law calls them, will become a first-degree sexual assault and the maximum penalty increases from 40 years in prison to 60 years in prison. It does not matter whether the person convicted of the crime knew the victim’s age.
  • There is a new crime of “physical abuse of an elder person,” patterned after a law against physical abuse of a child. Penalties for violating the new law vary from up to 40 years in prison for intentionally causing great bodily harm, to 3½ years for recklessly causing great bodily harm.
  • Prosecutors can seek to freeze the assets of defendants in financial exploitation crime cases where the victim is an elder and the property involved is worth more than $2,500. The prosecutor can seek to freeze assets up to the full value involved in the alleged crime to preserve them for potential restitution to the victim.
  • Maximum sentences for crimes committed against an elder automatically increase, whether or not the convicted person was aware of the victim’s age. The sentence for any crime punishable by up to one year of incarceration increases to a maximum of two years; the sentence for a crime punishable by one to 10 years of incarceration increases by an additional four years; and the sentence for a crime punishable by more than 10 years in prison increases by up to six years.

Counties last year reported 3,574 potential cases of elder abuse, according to the state’s Annual Elder Abuse and Neglect Report. Counties also reported an additional 1,003 cases of neglect by others and 4,896 self-neglect cases.

In the abuse category, there were 2,148 cases or calls about financial abuse, 717 about emotional abuse, 650 about physical abuse, 41 about sexual abuse, 14 about unreasonable confinement or restraint, and four about treatment without consent.

Of all the reports, including those for neglect and self-neglect, more than half – 52.5% – were either unsubstantiated or unable to be substantiated.

In another signing, Evers signed a bill that regulates police use of force. It creates standards for when police can use force, creates a duty to report improper use of force, and creates a duty to intervene or prevent improper use of force.

Evers vetoed a bill that would have reduced shared revenue payments to counties and municipalities that reduce police, firefighter, or emergency responder funding or personnel.

Categories: Politics

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