Bonta Bill Protects Victims of Domestic Violence, Children, Rehabilitated Individuals, and Victims of Online Crime

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Legislature Sends Bonta’s Victim Compensation Bill to the Governor

(SACRAMENTO, CA) - Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) announced today that his bill to modernize the California Victim Compensation Program passed both houses of the Legislature with strong bipartisan support and will now be considered by the Governor. The California Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board (board) administers the California Victim Compensation Program (CalVCP) to compensate victims of specific types of crimes through the Restitution Fund.

“AB 1140 makes progressive changes to the program, reflects a collaborative effort of all stakeholder groups, and helps 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,” Bonta explained.

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 legitimate 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 violently sexually assaulted and not be able to participate in the fund,” said Assemblymember 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 was crafted following extensive negotiations and a stakeholder process. “The CalVCP framework was developed several decades ago and has not been thoroughly revised since. To modernize and update the program to better serve victims of crime, the board conducted a Statute Modernization Project, spending many months collaborating with stakeholders from throughout the state. AB 1140 implements many of these stakeholder recommendations, making a number of common-sense reforms to the program,” Bonta concluded.

In addition to the provisions set forth above, the bill also 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, 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 sponsored by the California Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board and supported by Policy Link, the Alliance for Boys and Men of Color, the Alameda County District Attorney, YouthALIVE!, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, and the Crime Victims Action Alliance. There is no opposition.