Current South Dakota Law Denies Elderly Victims Of Crime The Rights They Deserve

The elderly are frequently targeted for financial scams and other crimes. In addition, elder abuse and neglect are a serious problem. Unfortunately, the elderly in South Dakota are not recognized as victims under current law in South Dakota for most crimes they suffer from. As a result, they have no rights to be notified of court hearings or to be present or heard at such hearings. In addition, they have no right to be notified when their offenders are released from custody.

According to the National Council on Aging, the top 10 financial scams that target seniors are 1. Medicare/health insurance scams; 2. Counterfeit prescription drugs; 3. Funeral and cemetery scams; 4. Fraudulent anti-aging product; 5. telemarketing scams; 6. Internet fraud; 7. investment schemes; 8. reverse mortgage scams; 9. Sweepstakes and lottery scams and “the Grandparent scam” where a fake grandchild asks for money. None of the victims of these crimes are recognized under the legal definition of “victim” under current statutory laws in South Dakota so they have no rights.

In South Dakota, a con man, like Bernie Madoff, could steal a senior’s entire life savings yet the victim would not have basic rights under current law. According to the Consumer Law Center, Americans lose an estimated $40 billion each year to the fraudulent sale of goods and services over the telephone.  Since the elderly are frequent targets of such telemarketing frauds and sweepstakes scams they suffer more than anyone.

Under current law, seniors won’t even be able to utilize the new Statewide Automated Victim Information Notification (SAVIN) system because they are not considered victims for most of the crimes committed against them. This new system would automatically give victims important information about their case, notification for hearings, and notification when criminals are released from custody.  

Marsy’s Law will recognize that seniors are indeed “victims” and give them the rights they deserve. The new SAVIN system will enable the state to grant such rights without any significant costs because the automated system is already paid for and, for a very minimal cost, it can simply be expanded to include all crimes. Expanding the SAVIN system to all crimes and all victims will provide a valuable service to thousands of crime victims in South Dakota every year…especially senior citizens.

South Dakota has some of the weakest crime victim laws in the nation. This is especially true for seniors in our state. We are one of the last remaining states to pass constitutional rights for crime victims. It is time to give crime victims the equal rights they deserve. Vote Yes on S in November.