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#421 Payment to victims of violent crimes

mp3 #421 Payment to Victims of Crime (mp3 file)

If you have been a victim of a crime, you may be eligible for financial compensation and other assistance. Two programs have been established to help those who have been victims of crime and their families. The state board of control, through the restitution fund, provides reimbursement for certain losses or expenses. Local victim/witness assistance programs can provide other help to victims, and can assist you in filing for the state program at no charge.

This SmartLaw message will discuss the following questions:

Who is eligible for the state program?

What requirements must be satisfied to apply?

What about automobile-related injuries?

What kinds of losses can be covered?

What about emergency awards?

What about legal fees?

Bow can you apply?

What other services are available for victims of crime?

First, who is eligible for the state program? The victim of the Crime may apply, or a survivor of a person who dies as a direct result of the crime. Anyone who is legally dependent upon the victim for support, such as a child, may apply, along with anyone who has a close Relationship with the victim. The law may also provide compensation for anyone who must receive treatment or be present during the treatment of the victim. For example, the treatment of a sexually molested child may require that the parents be present during counseling, or receive counseling themselves. The law also compensates anyone who takes legal responsibility or who voluntarily pays the victim's medical or burial expenses. In addition, a family member may receive compensation for the costs of medical care or mental health counseling for emotional injury resulting from the crime.

What requirements must be satisfied to apply? The law requires you to report the crime to the police, sheriff, highway patrol, or other law enforcement agency. You must cooperate in the investigation and prosecution of any known suspects, but it is not necessary for there to be a known suspect in order for you to apply. If the crime occurs in California, you are eligible for help even if you are not a California resident. If the crime occurs outside of California to a California resident, you are also eligible for help from the California program. You must not have taken part in the commission of the crime yourself in order to be eligible, and you must cooperate with the board of control and/or a local victim center in the verification of information in your application.

What about automobile-related injuries? If the injury is the result· of an automobile accident, you may file an application but only if the party at fault was charged with any of the following offenses: vehicular manslaughter, hit and run, driving under the influence, using the vehicle as a weapon, or fleeing the scene of a crime.

What kinds of losses can be covered? Most medical, mental health counseling, funeral or burial, wage loss, loss of support, and job retraining expenses are covered, up to a total of $46,000, unless those expenses have already been covered by insurance, sick leave, disability, or other sources. The law provides that those other available sources of reimbursement must be used first. Self-employed persons may apply for loss of income by providing copies of state or federal tax returns and profit and loss statements to establish the level of the loss. There is no minimum loss required, and no requirement that there be a financial hardship on the victim or the family. Property losses, such as stereos, are not covered, except for eyeglasses, hearing aids, or other prosthetic devices. The state board of control will pay only up to certain maximum amounts, for certain types of expenses. For example, the maximum payment for funeral and burial expenses is $5,000.

What about emergency awards? You may also apply for an emergency award of up to $2,000 if the victim, or their dependents, can show a financial hardship due to loss of income or support. This requires a separate application for assistance.

What about legal fees? It is not necessary for you to hire an attorney in order to apply for restitution from the state program, although you may wish to do so. An attorney may not charge any fee to help you file this application, although the state may award up to $500, or 10% of the amount of the award, whichever is less, to the attorney who files the claim. If you do suffer a loss of property as a result of the crime, including cash, you may provide that information to the court, and they may order the party at fault to pay you. Legal expenses associated with the prosecution of the assailant are not covered by the state program, although you may receive assistance from the local victim/witness program.

How can you apply? You must first obtain an application from a local county victim/witness assistance program, a local law enforcement agency, district attorney's office, or probation department. You will find the telephone number for these agencies listed in your local telephone directory under the government listings.

The application will require you to provide the state board of control with all needed documents and financial information. You must give permission for the board staff to examine all records related to the victim's injury. Once you have supplied all requested information and documentation, your application will be acknowledged for processing. After the application is reviewed, you will be advised by mail of the staff recommendation. If you disagree with the recommendation, you may ask for an informal hearing before the state board of control. You will be notified at least ten days in advance of the date, time and place of the hearing, which is held in Sacramento, Los Angeles, San Diego, or San Francisco. You may ask that your hearing be held in the location closest to you.

You may appear either in person or ask the board to take action without your being present. You may take a lawyer or other representative to assist you in your presentation. If you do not appear, the board will consider the application, and you will be notified by mail of its decision.

If you change your address or telephone number after you sent in the application, you must advise the state board of control as soon as possible. Failure to notify the board of a change of address may result in delays in processing your application.

What other services are available for victims of crime? In addition to helping you file an application for the state program for financial reimbursement, most counties have established local victim/witness assistance programs to provide services to victims and witnesses of crimes. These programs provide free services, such as information and referrals for counseling, reassurance and support for victims and their families, emergency assistance for short term needs, and crime prevention information.

If you are called to court to testify as a witness to a crime, these local programs can help make your appearance easier. The local victim/witness program can provide you with notification about the status of your case before, during, and after prosecution, even if you are not called to testify. If you are unable to arrange transportation to court, or childcare, the program may assist you in an emergency. If you need someone to notify your employer of an upcoming court appearance, or if you have a question about how the criminal justice system works, contact your local victim/witness assistance program listed in the government listing section of your local telephone directory. You may also call the state board of control for information about how to contact your local victim/witness program. The toll-free number at the state board of control is 1-800-777-9229.

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