Proposed Maryland Legislation Would Increase Criminal Penalties for Elder Abuse

A bill that would increase criminal penalties for people who engage in elder abuse has met with unfavorable reports in the judiciary committees of both houses of the Maryland Legislature. The bill, known as the John H. Taylor Act, has been introduced in the Legislature several times, and its supporters are not likely to give up. The bill’s namesake, was ninety years old when he suffered several severe beatings by an in-home caregiver in 2007. He was recovering from multiple strokes at the time. One of the beatings was caught on tape, and his daughter, Jacqueline Taylor, learned that he had suffered three more beatings from his caretaker that month. She showed the video to the House Judiciary Committee at a hearing in January and testified in support of the bill.

According to a website set up by Jacqueline Taylor, the caretaker, Anastacia Oluoch, was arrested in 2007 and charged with four counts each of abuse or neglect of a vulnerable adult, second degree assault, and reckless endangerment. All of the charged offenses are felonies. She was released on bail and fled the country before her trial date. She was reportedly arrested in Kenya in 2011 and could be extradited to the United States. John H. Taylor passed away in 2009.

Under current Maryland law, abuse or neglect of a vulnerable adult applies to a person with a “contractual undertaking to provide care” to an adult lacking “the physical or mental capacity” to provide self-care. “Abuse” includes intentionally inflicting pain or injury and sexual abuse. “Neglect” includes the withholding of food, medical care, and other necessary services. Abuse or neglect that involves sexual abuse or results in death or serious physical injury is a first-degree offense, carrying a maximum penalty of ten years’ imprisonment and a $10,000 fine. All other abuse or neglect is a second-degree offense, with a punishment of up to five year’s imprisonment and a fine of $5,000.

The proposed legislation would modify the statutes defining both first- and second degree abuse or neglect of a vulnerable adult. It would prohibit a District Court commissioner from releasing a defendant charged with either offense prior to trial. A judge, subject to certain requirements and conditions, could still authorize a defendant’s release, with provisions specifically preventing a defendant from leaving the country. The bill also doubles the maximum penalties for first- and second-degree offenses. Critics of the bill worry that it may infringe on a defendant’s due process rights and limit judges’ discretion.

The bill was introduced in the House as House Bill 17 and first read on January 11, 2012. The Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the bill on January 17. On February 6, it reported unfavorably on the bill. The bill was first read in the Senate as Senate Bill 223. A hearing was scheduled for February 16 but was cancelled. An unfavorable report on the bill was withdrawn on March 5. At this point, the bill has little chance of advancement during this session.

Nursing homes have a duty to provide diligent care and a safe environment for their residents. The Maryland nursing home lawyers at Lebowitz and Mzhen help obtain compensation for people injured due to abuse or neglect by nursing home staff. Contact us today online or at (800) 654-1949 for a free and confidential consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Proposed Bill Would Require Notification of Nursing Home Residents on Sex Offender Registry, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, January 9, 2012
October is Long-term Care Residents’ Rights Month in Maryland and around the Country, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, October 19, 2011
Federal Nursing Home Reform Act Compliance, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, December 6, 2010

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