Governor Brown Signs Bill To Overhaul Compensation And Restitution For Crime Victims
News from the Office of District Attorney George Gascón
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CONTACT: Alex Bastian (415) 553-1931
Maxwell Szabo (415) 553-9089
GOVERNOR BROWN SIGNS BILL TO OVERHAUL COMPENSATION AND RESTITUTION FOR CRIME VICTIMS
AB 1140 Removes Hurdles to Recovery for Victims of Crime, Ensures They Receive Services to Help Them Heal and Put Traumatic Events Behind Them
SAN FRANCISCO – Yesterday, Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 1140 into law to modernize the California Victim Compensation Program. The bill was authored by Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) and was merged with Senator Loni Hancock’s (D-Oakland) SB 519 in late August. The bill was sponsored by District Attorney George Gascón and the Victims Compensation and Government Claims Board, and it removes a myriad of obstacles facing victims and witnesses who seek treatment and services to help them heal and recover from victimization.
“We must never lose sight of the impacts criminal behavior has on the community, and on the victim in particular,” said District Attorney George Gascón. “This proposal makes essential changes that ensure victims across the state receive timely services, enabling traumatized victims to avoid obstacles to recovery. The cycle of victimization is such that today’s victim could be offender if they do not get the proper help to heal.”
“AB 1140 will help California better meet the needs of crime victims,” said Assemblymember Rob Bonta. “The balanced and common-sense changes made by AB 1140 will allow more victims of violent crime to fully participate in the program and obtain the critical services they need to heal and recover. I am honored to have had the opportunity to author this critical and necessary overhaul and modernization of the program."
“It is essential that crime victims get help and compensation as fast as possible,” said Senator Loni Hancock. “This bill is designed to speed up that process by removing roadblocks and red tape. I am gratified that Governor Brown has now signed it into law.”
Victims of crime often fall into crime themselves because they suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or as a reaction to their trauma. Studies have found that victimization and delinquency largely overlap, with most victims engaging in delinquency and most delinquents being victimized at some point in their lives (Lauritsen, Laub, and Sampson, 1992; Lauritsen, Sampson, and Laub, 1991; Singer, 1986). In fact, in San Francisco, 90% of assault victims between 15 and 30 years old admitted to San Francisco General Hospital have a prior history of criminal activity.
According to a report by Californians for Safety and Justice, one in five Californians acknowledge having been a victim of crime in the last five years. Half of these acknowledge being a victim of a violent crime, and two in three of these crime victims acknowledge having been victims of multiple crimes in the past five years. What’s worse, two in three crime victims report experiencing anxiety, stress and difficulty with sleeping, relationships or work, and half of the individuals tested felt it took more than six months to recover from these experiences.Most importantly, four of the five services available to crime victims tested in the report – including assistance with accessing victims’ compensation and navigating the criminal justice process – were unknown to the majority of victims. Of those who had used the services, nearly half found them difficult to access.
In March 2015, the Legislative Analyst’s Office released a report outlining ongoing issues with the VCGCB and recommended that it be drastically reorganized. In 2008, the California State Auditor released a report criticizing the Board. The Auditor noted that frequently, the Board took longer than the statutorily required 90-day time period to disburse payments to victims. In one instance, the Board did not disburse payment until 255 days after receiving the victim’s application.
AB 1140 makes 22 changes to VCGCB Protocols, Restitution Codes and more. Some of the many changes include ensuring domestic violence victims are no longer barred from compensation if they fail to cooperate with law enforcement at the scene of the crime. Additionally, crime victims will now receive compensation application materials in their native language. It also eliminates the current bar on compensation for parolees and probationers (convicted sex offenders or those on probation or parole for a violent crime are still barred from receiving victims compensation), and adds new provisions to keep up with changing crimes and technology. For example, the bill includes online harassment as a compensable crime and allows compensation to a minor who sustains emotional injury as a direct result of the distribution of pictures or video of sexual conduct. The bill also allows service dogs to attend hearings in order to support their victim owners, and enables victims at restitution or modification hearings to testify by live, 2-way audio and video transmission. This is especially important in San Francisco where victims of auto burglaries may not be able to be compensated for their losses by thieves because they are unable to return in order to testify in a restitution hearing.
A full list of the provisions of AB 1140 is available here.