LANSING, Mich. (June 12, 2024) — Today, Sens. Veronica Klinefelt (D-Eastpointe), Sarah Anthony (D-Lansing), Kevin Hertel (D-St. Clair Shores), and Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) introduced Senate Bills 922-925 to better protect those who are unable to protect themselves because of advanced age or a mental or physical impairment. This comprehensive legislative package would enhance protections for vulnerable adults by strengthening penalties for abuse and financial exploitation offenses and developing programs to bolster prevention efforts.

Elderly individuals and vulnerable adults are at high risk of being subject to abuse and exploitation at the hands of family members, friends, or other close associates. To protect Michiganders from this harm, Senate Bill 922 would create authority for the issuance of a personal protection order (PPO) tailored to address the unique needs of this population. More specifically, a PPO could prohibit an individual from various harmful actions, including entering premises, committing assault, making threats, possessing firearms, and other behaviors that endanger the petitioner’s safety or well-being. Additionally, an elder and vulnerable adult PPO could also include any relief the court considered necessary to prevent or remedy the financial exploitation of the petitioner.

“As legislators, we have a responsibility to ensure Michigan seniors and vulnerable adults have the respect, care, and protection they deserve,” said Sen. Klinefelt, lead sponsor of the package. “With this legislation, we’re taking actionable steps to protect this population by creating a mechanism to protect older and vulnerable adults from violence and threats by those who are trusted to care for them.”

Under current statute, a person is only explicitly prohibited from using or obtaining a vulnerable adult’s money or property through fraud, deceit, misrepresentation, coercion, or unjust enrichment during the vulnerable adult’s lifetime. Senate Bill 924 seeks to extend this protection beyond the vulnerable adult’s death, ensuring that offenders who continue their schemes posthumously face the same penalties as if the exploitation had occurred while the vulnerable adult was alive. Additionally, this bill would allow for the recovery of money or property during the victim’s lifetime and from the victim’s estate.

“Elder abuse and exploitation is a serious issue facing our state, threatening the safety and security every Michigander deserves,” said Sen. Hertel. “This legislative package serves as a critical step towards justice for our elderly community, sending a clear message: we will not tolerate abuse at any time, and we will relentlessly pursue those who take advantage of our most vulnerable citizens. By strengthening the tools our criminal justice system has to prosecute cases of financial exploitation and fraud, we can build a state where every person can age without fear of harm.”

Currently, embezzlement of a vulnerable adult is only subject to a six-year statute of limitations. Senate Bill 923 would amend the Michigan Penal Code to include embezzlement of a vulnerable adult as a predicate offense of racketeering, allowing prosecutors to pursue recovery of property under a 10-year statute of limitations.

“Michigan seniors have given so much to our communities,” said Sen. Anthony. “They have served as parents, grandparents, teachers, mentors, friends, and so much more. Now, it is our turn to step up and show them the same level of dedication and compassion. We have a collective responsibility to ensure elder adults can enjoy life without fear of financial exploitation. These bills ensure they have the resources and support needed to take legal action if they are targeted by scams or embezzlement.”

In order to ensure older and vulnerable Michiganders are informed of strategies and methods for preventing abuse and fraud and have access to medical, social, and legal services, Senate Bill 925 would allow each county or region to create a vulnerable adult multidisciplinary team. These teams would facilitate the coordination and collaboration of agencies, allowing them to take a holistic approach to preventing, intervening, investigating, and prosecuting abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation of older and vulnerable adults.

“Here in Michigan, we look out for each other — especially for those in our communities who are most vulnerable,” said Sen. Irwin. “I’m proud to work with my Senate colleagues in bringing forward legislation that does just that — looks out for our vulnerable adults by creating additional protections against exploitation and abuse. Specifically, my bill would build multidisciplinary teams, helping bring a diverse coalition together to coordinate essential services for the well-being of our vulnerable residents.”