Judge Rules State’s Elder Exploitation Law is Vague

Ruling says statute doesn't require evidence of criminal intent to prosecute

By Associated Press

MISSOULA — A state judge ruled that Montana’s elder exploitation law is vague and doesn’t require evidence of criminal intent to prosecute.

The ruling came Tuesday in the case of an 80-year-old woman who is charged with taking money from an account for which she was a co-signor after the other co-signor, a man who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, gave her control of his finances in 2012.

Prosecutors allege she manipulated the man into putting money into the account.

Attorneys for Rose-Marie Bowman asked for the elder exploitation charge to be dismissed, arguing the law could be used to prosecute innocent actions.

District Judge Dusty Deschamps agreed, writing the statute “is so broad and devoid of any requirements for proof of a criminal state of mind by the accused, a person is left to guess what specific acts might be allowed or prohibited by statute.”

Missoula County prosecutors have until Monday to decide if they want to appeal Deschamps’ ruling to the Montana Supreme Court, file charges under another law or drop the case, the Missoulian reports .

County Attorney Kirsten Pabst says she’s consulting with the attorney general’s office.

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