Senate passes Libby bill to better compensate victims of property crimes

Posted: June 21, 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” was enacted unanimously in the Maine Senate on Thursday.

“This bill would allow prosecutors to ensure that victims of property crimes are made whole in a more timely manner, while they also seek appropriate, and increasingly creative, justice for those crimes,” said Sen. Libby. “Right now, the avenues available to these victims aren’t timely, and can be expensive, which adds additional frustrations on top of an already bad situation.”

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.

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.

The program 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, but judges will be able to waive fees for people with no ability to pay. 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. Crimes that happen out of state would not be covered by this program.

LD 1550 now goes to Gov. Janet Mills, who has 10 days to sign it into law, veto it, or allow it to become law without her signature.