Legislative Update from State Senator Joey Hensley September 22, 2021

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   Safe Senior Act to take effect October 1 helps protect elderly and vulnerable adults

   Most laws enacted by the General Assembly have July 1, January 1 enactment dates or become law upon the governor’s signature. Occasionally, another date is set by legislation and that is the case with an important law passed this year to protect elderly and vulnerable Tennesseans. The Safe Seniors Act of 2021, which will go into effect on October 1, was passed this year to assist law enforcement and prosecutors in taking dangerous individuals who abuse elderly and vulnerable adults off the streets. It also assists judges in making sure that the sentences available to them upon conviction reflect the severity of the crime.

   This new law also helps clean up the state’s statutes and make needed changes to protect some of Tennessee’s most vulnerable citizens. Provisions in the new law include:

•Making the process easier to take an elderly adult’s deposition;

•Making certain that adult protective services can make disclosures to prosecutors;

•Allowing aggravated elder abuse to be considered as an underlying offense for felony murder if the elderly adult dies;

•Expanding the definition of financial exploitation to include those situations where a caregiver takes the victim’s money for their own benefit without consent; and

•Changing the definition of physical harm to mean causing pain or injury, or that would cause a reasonable person to suffer pain.

   Our General Assembly also passed legislation that requires a petition for the appointment of a conservator to include a search of the Department of Health’s registry of persons who have abused, neglected, or misappropriated the property of vulnerable persons. It also requires a search of the National Sex Offender Registry. This will help judges make more informed decisions and potentially prevent those with nefarious intentions from becoming conservators. This new law will be effective on January 1, 2022.

    Over the past five years, the General Assembly has overhauled Tennessee’s elderly abuse laws. Some of these laws include:

•Legislation increasing penalties for the most dangerous crimes involving elder abuse;

•Legislation to protect Tennessee’s elderly from being victimized financially by scammers;

•Legislation making Tennessee’s laws pertaining elder abuse easier for law enforcement to recognize and prosecute;

•Legislation combatting abuse and financial exploitation of Tennesseans who are elderly or have diminished capacity;

•Legislation giving financial institutions greater tools to protect their customers when there is a reason to suspect financial exploitation; and

•Legislation that defined and created the offense of financial exploitation of elderly or vulnerable adults, including the use of deception, intimidation, undue influence, force, or threat of force to obtain or exert unauthorized control over an elderly or vulnerable adult’s property with intent to deprive them of it.

    It is hard to fathom how a person could take advantage of those who are vulnerable.  I was happy to support this legislation and pleased that the two new laws passed this year will be enacted soon.