Right now, Michigan law only allows a felony if a person "causes serious physical harm or serious mental harm to a vulnerable adult,” explains WZZM in its recent article “Lawmakers introduce tougher laws to protect vulnerable senior citizens.”
Legislation recently introduced in Michigan's House of Representatives would toughen the penalties for somebody who "assaults another person that he or she knows or reasonably should know is an elder adult or vulnerable adult" which "causes physical injury, pain, or mental suffering" to them. The individual would be guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for more than four years or a fine of not more than $5,000.
The issue is timely and important, after a former Grand Rapids Home for Veterans caregiver Laurie Botbyl was convicted of a misdemeanor last month. With the new proposed law, prosecutors could have sought a felony charge against her.
A video obtained by a news outlet last year shows a fight, as Laurie Botbyl tried to get 83-year old veteran Maynard Mathers under control, while he sat in a wheelchair inside the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans. Immediately thereafter, Botbyl placed both of her hands on the chair's handles, pulled the chair in and pushed the wheelchair forward out of her control. Mathers was injured after the incident. But the local prosecuting attorney said his office didn’t have crucial medical evidence to move the case forward in early 2016 and didn’t indict Botbyl. However, the case was re-opened after a TV investigative team obtained medical evidence indicating that Mathers had multiple injuries, including a "skin tear" on his leg when he was pushed into the desk in his wheelchair. The evidence prompted the prosecutor to take a second look at the case, which led to the criminal charge being filed against Botbyl. She is scheduled to be sentenced for the crime this fall.
"This is the (legislature) trying to protect seniors as a vulnerable group in our state," Rep. Diana Farrington (R-Utica) said.
Rep. Farrington sponsored the bill as part of a six-bill package aimed at protecting senior citizens. The bill addressing vulnerable adult abuse appears to already have bipartisan support.
"There should most certainly be serious penalties for harming an elderly adult or a vulnerable adult," Rep. Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids) said. "If it helps prevent the kinds of tragic abuse and neglect people suffered at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans, I will gladly vote for it."
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Reference: WZZM (September 28, 2017) “Lawmakers introduce tougher laws to protect vulnerable senior citizens”