Libby bill to better compensate victims of property crimes becomes law

Posted: January 14, 2020 | Senator Libby

Legislation sponsored by Sen. Nate Libby, D-Lewiston, to compensate victims of property crimes more quickly and fully than they are now became law this weekend. LD 1550, “An Act To Create a Victims’ Compensation Fund for Victims of Property Crimes,” was passed unanimously by the Legislature in 2019.

“As our ideas of how to best serve justice evolve, we need to make sure that our ideas of how victims of crimes are cared for grow and change as well, and that’s what this new law does,” said Sen. Libby. “Now, people whose property is stolen or damaged will be made financially whole more quickly, easing an emotional, frustrating situation and giving prosecutors more space to pursue alternative sentencing programs. I’m grateful to District Attorney Andy Robinson and Jan Collins of Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition for collaborating on this innovative idea and approaching me with the bill’s concept.”

Under prior law, if a judge ordered that a defendant pay restitution to their victim, the payment often came many months after the crime had been committed, and given the limited financial resources of many defendants, the payments came in small amounts over many years.

The Victims’ Property Compensation Fund will be similar in structure to the Maine Victims’ Compensation Program currently in place for victims of violent crimes. Damage or loss of personal property was not eligible for compensation in that program, however, including cellphones, laptops, other electronics, and vehicle damage.

The program will be funded by a $10 assessment on any person convicted of murder or a Class A, B, or C crime and a $5 assessment on any person convicted of a Class D or E crime, but judges will be able to waive fees for people with no ability to pay. Perpetrators may be ordered to reimburse the fund, in the same way they are ordered to pay restitution. Victims of a property crime may be compensated for up to $1,000 for property losses or insurance deductibles paid pursuant to an insurance claim as a result of the property loss. Crimes that happen out of state will not be covered by this program.

Because LD 1550 became law during the Second Regular Session of the 129th Legislature, it will go into effect 90 days after the Legislature adjourns sine die, which is scheduled for mid-April.