Colorado Law Requires Professionals to Report Elder Abuse or Face Criminal Charges

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jun 16, 2014

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A Colorado law designed to encourage the prompt reporting of potential elder abuse goes into effect on July 1, 2014. The legislation, passed and signed almost a year ago, requires professionals that deal with the elderly to report instances of abuse or suspected abuse within 24 hours of discovery. Failure to do so is a misdemeanor.

Colorado’s New Reporting Law

No Elder Abuse ZoneColorado lags behind the majority of states on this issue. In fact, until the new law, Colorado was one of only three states that did not have a mandatory reporting law on the books. Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey is a supporter of the new measure, and the Denver District Attorney’s Office will be holding an informational “Speak Up It’s The Law Conference” on June 11, 2014 to provide an overview of the new law.

Who Must Report Elder Abuse

Morrissey told KUSA 9News “It’s the law we’ve been trying to get in Colorado for some time. You would think people would report it [elder abuse], but there are some people that are a part of this law now that have always believed it wasn’t their responsibility to do that.” Morrissey is referring to the new law’s requirement that banks, credit unions and other financial institutions report observed or suspected elder abuse.

The law covers a broad range of professional categories. Doctors, nurses and other health care providers, social workers, clergy, law enforcement and fire/emergency personnel as well as financial service providers are all obligated to report observed or suspected abuse within a 24-hour period. Willful violation of the duty is considered a misdemeanor.

Who is an “Elder”

The law defines an “elder” as anyone aged 70 or older. Colorado’s elderly population is on the rise. It is expected to increase by 142% over the next 23 years. The new law will offer elders protection that, to this point, they haven’t enjoyed in the state of Colorado.

The legislation itself is comprehensive. In addition to defining the classes of professionals that are obligated to report abuse, the law also provides for increased funding for social services aimed at elders, as well as increased funding for the investigation and prosecution of elder abuse. The law also explicitly states that those with a duty to report are shielded from criminal and/or civil liability for doing so, creating an obligation that comes with minimal risk.

Elders are constant targets. Whether subjected to physical or emotional abuse, the unwanted attention of friends and family seeking to steal money or scam artists looking to make a quick buck, elders are very often targets for abusers. In Colorado, the legislature has made turning a blind eye to the plight of elders a crime unto itself.

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