By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support local journalism.
Zavogiannis helps to shape new law
Tougher guidelines now in place for crimes against elderly
District Attorney General Lisa Zavogiannis holds a copy of her elder abuse bill which became state law July 1. She is pictured with other district attorneys and assistant district attorneys, from left, Susan Sheldon, Matt Stowe, Tee Hassold, Ardath Griffin, Andrea Kline, and Kate Melby.

A years-long effort by District Attorney General Lisa Zavogiannis to better protect the elderly and intellectually challenged has become state law.
What is known as the Elderly and Vulnerable Adult Protection Act took effect July 1.
The new law provides more severe penalties to those who financially exploit the elderly and those with mental disabilities by taking the criminal charge one degree higher. For example, it increases a Class E Felony to a Class D Felony.
“I think this is a great step needed to protect the elderly,” said Zavogiannis, who serves the 31st Judicial District of Warren and Van Buren counties. “We still have more to do, but this is the right direction and it’s a really big deal.”
The law applies to elderly adults, defined as 70 or over, and vulnerable adults, defined as persons over 18 but with intellectual limitations that prevent them from fully managing their own resources.
The enhanced charges can be applied to anyone. This includes a caregiver, a family member, or even a stranger looking to pull a quick scam. It also applies to someone who has been given power of attorney but who has abused that responsibility.
“There are people who try to scam elderly adults and they have no family connection to them,” said Zavogiannis. “This applies if they use deception or undue influence to get money.”
Another facet of the law is it can preserve the initial testimony of the victim to be used later during court proceedings. Zavogiannis said this is crucial if the victim is suffering from dementia and may be losing the ability to recall events clearly. It also helps because elderly residents and those with physical limitations may struggle to make repeated court appearances.
“This can also freeze the assets of someone who takes advantage of the elderly,” said Zavogiannis.
Zavogiannis said she began work on the law back in 2014 when she was assigned to a governor’s task force to protect the elderly. From there, a committee was established during the District Attorney’s Conference to address elder abuse and Zavogiannis was named chair.
Zavogiannis says input from law enforcement and adult protective services was collected as the new law was shaped.