Libby bill to better compensate victims of property crimes clears Committee

Posted: May 13, 2019 | Senator Libby

A bill sponsored by Sen. Nate Libby, D-Lewiston, would compensate victims of property crimes more quickly and fully than they are now. LD 1550, “An Act To Create a Victims’ Compensation Fund for Victims of Property Crimes” passed by a 11-1 vote in the Legislature’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee on Monday.

“LD 1550 helps us accomplish the dual goal of providing restoration to the victim as quickly as possible while also allowing prosecutors to better seek justice for the crime and, hopefully, to help break that cycle of violence and wrongdoing,” said Sen. Libby. “Today’s vote is a step forward to increasing fairness for victims of property crimes, who right now have few options for seeking to be made whole from what happened to them. Insurance claims, costly civil actions, or restitution orders are available remedies, but in most situations, those remedies take months to materialize and tend to fall short of making the victim whole.”

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

“A good example of a common property crime would be when a contractor’s work equipment is damaged or stolen from the work site and they can’t continue their work or provide for their family. It’s very frustrating for them to be told that we’ll try to get restitution but it may take several months,” said Androscoggin, Franklin and Oxford Counties District Attorney Andy Robinson at a recent public hearing on the bill. “As we try to think creatively about how to resolve criminal cases, we need remember that victims are an important part of the equation and they need to be made whole. Ensuring the victim is able to have access to resources to overcome the impact of the crime is critical to making sure justice is done.”

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

As amended by the committee, it would 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. Perpetrators could 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.

The committee’s amendment moves the start date of compensation to 2022, does not cover compensation for crimes that happen out of state, allows judges to waive fees for people with no ability to pay, and adds two additional positions to the board, a person with experience with insurance and a member of the general public.

The bill now goes to the Maine Senate and House for further votes.