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Stuart pushes bill to protect elderly

RICHMOND—Taking advantage of an incapacitated adult would be a felony under a bill from Sen. Richard Stuart, R–Stafford.

Stuart’s bill was approved Monday by the Senate Court of Justice Committee, then sent to the Finance Committee because, if passed, it could cost the state money.

His bill is the culmination of several years of effort to find a way to crack down on people who would take advantage of adults whose capacity is diminished, Stuart said.

The bill would protect not just the elderly, but any incapacitated adult, he said. Stuart’s bill Is backed by the AARP, the attorney general and several other groups.

He filed the bill last year and it was sent to the state crime commission. There, Stuart said, he thinks it was reworded so it should catch actual fraud and abuse while not inadvertently criminalizing well-intentioned caregivers.

It makes it a felony, punishable by at least a year and up to 20 years in prison, to deceive or intimidate an incapacitated adult into giving up control of the person’s money, assets or property. The bill also makes it a different class of felony if a person who is a caregiver takes advantage of the person for whom they are caring.

Stuart said the measure could cover everything from fraudulent contractors who canvass neighborhoods selling unneeded home repairs, to caretakers who steal a mentally incapacitated person’s money.

Members of the courts committee said they hope Stuart’s bill will help crack down on a widespread problem.

“It is a problem far more prevalent than will ever be reported,” said Sen. Tom Garrett, R–Louisa.

The bill is going to the finance committee because it has an undetermined fiscal impact. Creating a new felony means more people being sent to state correctional facilities to serve time for that crime. Legislation passed last year requires that in cases where a cost is expected but can’t be determined, that lawmakers assume a fiscal impact of $50,000.

Chelyen Davis: 540/368-5028