SACRAMENTO – District attorneys would have a new tool in prosecuting cases of elderly abuse and fraud that span multiple counties under legislation introduced today by state Senator Jerry Hill.
Senate Bill 304 would allow district attorneys to consolidate such criminal cases into a single prosecution. The move would ease the burden for the elderly who, having become crime victims of a suspected serial perpetrator or perpetrators, must then cope with the challenges of testifying multiple times and in multiple locations as prosecutors press their cases.
“Our elder population, who have contributed so much to our community, deserve special consideration and protection from those who would prey upon them,” said San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe, who proposed the legislation to Senator Hill. “This bill will help us prosecute the most prolific elder abuse offenders.”
“We cannot let our elderly who fall victim to a variety of abuse, including fraud, experience further trauma as a result of the unintended consequences of existing law,” said Hill, D-San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties. “Law already exists to help protect vulnerable populations when certain crimes – like child abuse, domestic violence, human trafficking and sexual assault – are perpetrated in multiple counties. The law should be changed to so that its protection embraces the elderly.”
District Attorney Wagstaffe recently urged the senator to introduce a bill to do so as his office sought to consolidate the prosecution of cases involving three elderly men in San Mateo, Alameda and Contra Costa counties who were swindled out of almost $55,000 in money and valuables. When the scam against one victim nearly faltered, he was threatened with the murder of his family if he did not withdraw money from his bank and hand it over.
Prosecutors in the counties were able to consolidate the three cases on the grounds that it involved a conspiracy among the suspects, only one of whom so far has been identified. Because of that, however, the consolidation is likely to face legal challenges. Current law does not provide an avenue to consolidate crimes of elder abuse that occur in multiple counties and involve a single defendant.
SB 304 would give prosecutors a clear legal path to consolidate such cases provided that the prosecutors agree to do so and a hearing is conducted on the proposed consolidation.
The legislation addresses a growing crime trend.