New York State Senator Patrick Gallivan recently discussed the enactment of a bill he sponsored in the Senate that will make it possible for victims of elder abuse to give acceptable testimony in criminal cases against their abuser at the time the abuse is discovered instead of at the commencement of a lawsuit or criminal trial as the law is currently mandates. This legislation would allow elderly witnesses who are age 75 or older to preserve their testimony for future use.
"We have a responsibility to protect our senior citizens," Gallivan said. "Elder abuse, whether physical, psychological or financial, is on the rise as our senior population continues to grow. This legislation helps ensure that those who abuse and exploit the elderly are held accountable and do not go unpunished."
The bill proposes to allow recorded testimony from elderly witnesses to be preserved and used as evidence at a later date in a criminal proceeding. Right now, under New York state law, victims can only provide advanced testimony if they are suffering from a demonstrable physical illness or are incapacitated. Sadly, in many instances, elderly victims who appear healthy at the start of an investigation die prior to the start of the trial. This legislation might prove a major deterrent to would be abusers who, up until now, likely believe they can act with impunity given their first hand knowledge that the life expectancy of their victims is compromised.
In a prosecution from a few years back, a man in his 90's, who was supposedly very healthy for his age, was the victim of theft by his long-time home aide. He died after the aide's arrest but before the case went to a grand jury. The case was prosecuted, but would have been an easier conviction with the victim’s testimony. In this case, the aide confessed but obviously, that glimmer of conscience can’t be counted on in every matter before the court.
"Offenders should not be able to game the system by delaying legal proceedings in the hope that an elderly witness will pass away before trial," Gallivan said. The bill has been sent to the New York State Assembly for consideration.
Can we avoid many forms of financial abuse with the execution of an estate plan? I certainly think that a properly drafted estate plan is a vital first step in helping to prevent elder exploitation. Please contact our office to schedule your complimentary consultation or attend one of our workshops on this topic. Hope to see you soon.
Reference: WHEC (March 31, 2016) "Senate passes bill to better protect senior citizens from abuse"