Iowa's first elder abuse criminal law goes into effect Friday

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Attorney General Seal

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, June 30, 2022
Contact: Lynn Hicks | chief of staff | 515-281-6699 | | 

First criminal law on elder abuse targets theft, assault, and financial exploitation

'Crimes against older people won't be tolerated'

DES MOINES — 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 Gov. 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,” 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 60 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 60 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.  

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 

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.