New law seeks to combat vulnerable adult exploitation, abuse

New law seeks to combat vulnerable adult exploitation, abuse

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) – Vulnerable adults would be better protected against financial exploitation and neglect in Washington state under a new law awaiting the governor’s signature.

The legislation would create a new crime of theft involving a vulnerable adult – any person 18 years or older who is clearly mentally or physically unable to care for himself or herself or suffers from a cognitive impairment. It would also lower the standard of proof in criminal mistreatment cases from “recklessness” to “criminal negligence,” and create harsher penalties and extend the statute of limitations.

Thirty-seven states have criminal penalties for financial exploitation of the elderly and vulnerable adults. Thirty-four states currently have pending legislation, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Gov. Jay Inslee is expected to sign the bill within the next few weeks.