A bill sponsored by state Senator Jenny Oropeza to enhance penalties for abusing senior citizens was signed into law by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger August 6th.

Senate Bill (SB) 18 will increase fines on those who abuse dependent adults and senior citizens 65 and older. For second offenses, it would increase the fine from $6,000 to $10,000 for those found guilty of placing an elder or dependent adult in situations where great bodily harm or death is likely.

In addition, those found guilty of placing a senior or dependent adult in dangerous situations that are not likely to cause death or serious bodily injury would pay a fine of $5,000. The current penalty is $2,000.

“California’s senior citizens and their families will rest easier knowing that my new law will help protect them from abuse,” said Oropeza. “Elder abuse for far too long has been a hidden, pervasive and deadly crime where out of five million recent cases, a shocking 84 percent went unreported.”

SB 18 has had bipartisan support and was endorsed by the California District Attorneys Association; the California State Sheriffs Association; the California Commission on Aging; the Alzheimer’s Association and various community and state organizations.

The bill will take effect on January 1st, 2010.