Jacobs Says New Law Toughens Punishment for Assaulting the Elderly

Assaulting the elderly now a class D violent felony
May 5, 2008
Assemblywoman Rhoda Jacobs (D-Flatbush) announced that Governor Paterson signed into law a measure that makes assaulting a senior citizen a class D violent felony, helping curb predatory attacks by those who target the elderly (A.9818).

“Society cannot tolerate criminals who assault and abuse the elderly,” Jacobs said. “Elder abuse is a heinous crime, and we must take immediate action to stop this type of violence.”

The new law will increase the penalty for assaulting a senior citizen from a class A misdemeanor to second-degree assault – a class D violent felony – if a person 65 years or older is assaulted by someone more than 10 years younger.

“Our senior citizens deserve to feel safe and protected,” said Jacobs. “This law will ensure that criminals who assault and victimize the elderly will be severely punished for their shameful behavior.”

The Assembly also passed legislation this year to combat abuse against the elderly and vulnerable that will:

  • increase the penalty from a class A misdemeanor to a class E felony if more than one vulnerable elderly person is victimized by a scam artist (A.9813);
  • add an experienced elder law attorney to the state’s Crime Victims Board, providing valuable perspective for cases involving older New Yorkers (A.6204); and
  • require the New York State Police to develop educational materials and procedures relating to elder abuse to help with their cases (A.9905).

To help protect seniors’ assets and rights, the Assembly passed legislation that will allow those injured to sue, require a quick return of tenant deposits, safeguard the rights of individuals who place their trust in others under a power of attorney and curb ruthless actions by debt collectors. The measures will:

  • give the injured party the right to sue for intentional damages to his/her property or for physical injury or death inflicted because of age, disability, race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion or sexual orientation (A.866);
  • protect rent security deposits of the elderly and other New Yorkers by requiring landlords to promptly repay and account for a tenant’s security deposit at the end of a tenancy; require landlords to itemize deductions against security deposits in writing for damages to an apartment; and set penalties if landlords ignore the law, thereby helping to halt the widespread and unwarranted practice of unduly withholding tenant security deposits (A.2114);
  • rewrite New York’s power of attorney statute to ensure that agents for the elderly, the incapacitated and anyone who has given a power of attorney, are always answerable to that person, that this powerful tool in planning for incapacity is not used to cheat and defraud, and that prosecutors can effectively seek to punish those who criminally take advantage of others (A.6421-A); and
  • prevent debt collectors from seizing Social Security, Social Security Disability, Supplemental Security and veterans’ benefits in bank accounts up to $2,500; give notice to debtors that such funds are exempt; and bar banks from charging their processing fees against those protected assets (A.8527).

According to Jacobs, an estimated 30,000 seniors in New York State are victims of some kind of abuse or exploitation, a low estimate according to the National Center for the Elderly Abuse, which notes that only one in six elderly abuse cases are reported. Crimes can range from physical abuse – including sexual assault – to financial exploitation and emotional abuse.