Governor Signs Bonta Bill to Protect Victims of Domestic Violence, Children, and Rehabilitated Individuals

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

AB 1140 Modernizes and Reforms the California Victim Compensation Program  

(SACRAMENTO, CA) - Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) is happy to announce today that Governor Brown signed his bill to modernize the California Victim Compensation Program (CalVCP), which has been supporting victims of violent crime for 50 years.

“AB 1140 will help California better meet the needs of crime victims. 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,” said Bonta. 

Julie Nauman, executive officer of the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board, sponsor of the bill, said, “Fear of retaliation, depression, and shame are just a few of the effects victims endure following a violent crime. I want to thank Assemblymember Bonta for his pioneering effort and collaborative work with stakeholders across the state, ensuring victims in California are provided appropriate access to the critical services needed to help facilitate the healing process.”

Bonta explained some of the legal anomalies in current law that inspired the bill. A victim of domestic violence is currently barred from compensation if he or she fails to cooperate with law enforcement at the scene of the crime. However, there are many legitimate reasons, including fear of retaliation from the abuser, why a victim of domestic violence might be unwilling to cooperate with law enforcement. AB 1140 deletes this restriction and takes into account the complicated dynamics and the need to treat domestic violence victims with proper care.

Current law also bars a person from compensation for injuries resulting from his or her commission of a crime of any degree.  Bonta explained how this bar locks out hundreds of victims. “If a person is injured by a hit and run driver while jaywalking across the street, he or she is barred from compensation under current law as he or she was engaging in the crime of jaywalking, an infraction, when the injury occurred. AB 1140 amends the law to allow for compensation in these circumstances unless the crime committed was a felony.

A person on probation or parole is currently barred from participating in the program. “A woman on probation or parole could be sexually assaulted and not be able to participate in the fund,” said Bonta.  “AB 1140 would allow compensation unless the person is a convicted sex offender or on probation or parole for a violent crime.”

AB 1140 also modernizes the program 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, requires that initial application materials be provided by the board in several languages in addition to English, and ensures that funeral costs for victims are sufficiently funded.

AB 1140 is one two bills authored by Assemblymember Bonta to reform the California Victim Compensation Program in order to better care for victims of violent crime. Last year, the Governor signed his AB 1629 which supported victims of gun violence by providing them with increased access to counseling services through the fund.

Bonta concluded, “Thank you to Governor Brown for putting victims first by signing AB 1140.”