Legislation modernizes 1971 law in order to better support crime victims and surviving loved ones
The New Jersey Senate has passed legislation sponsored by Senator Steven Oroho (R-24) to update the “Criminal Injuries Compensation Act of 1971,” in order to ensure that crime victims or their surviving loved ones receive the compensation and support they deserve.
Sen. Steven Oroho’s updates the Criminal Injuries Compensation Act of 1971, in order to ensure that crime victims or their surviving loved ones receive the compensation and support they deserve. (©iStock)
The 1971 law created an agency designed to award funds to victims to help them recover. As a result, the right to receive compensation became the first right legally provided to crime victims in New Jersey. The compensation is intended to cover costs such as counseling, funeral expenses, attorney fees, medical bills, and ongoing costs for rehabbing a catastrophic injury.
A 2018 investigation conducted by NJ Advance Media found that the agency is failing to meet the needs of those whose lives are forever changed by violence. For example, crime victims often struggle to cope with delayed responses to their claim applications. Some victims reported that the funding they received was not sufficient to meet their needs, and many were not even aware that help from the state is available. The maximum amount a crime victim can receive in compensation has not been updated in nearly 20 years.
“We have a responsibility to help people who have been impacted by crime rebuild their lives. It’s in the best interest of our state to break the cycle of violence, by giving these families the resources they need to recover,” Senator Oroho said. “This agency was established to help people secure funds to bury a loved one with dignity, pay for legal bills, or heal from an injury after a brutal attack. These are simple, humane requests the state should honor and process in a expedient manner.”
“It’s been nearly 50 years since the original law was enacted. I think it’s fair to say that an update is long overdue. I hope this legislation will help crime victims statewide get the justice and support they deserve,” Oroho added.
Senator Oroho’s bipartisan legislation, S-498, updates the 1971 law to ensure the program is actually fulfilling its intended purpose, so that crime victims or their surviving loved ones can get the funds they need to recover and rebuild.
The reforms outlined under S-498, which is also sponsored by Senate Health Committee Chairman Sen. Joe Vitale, include:
- Expanding eligibility and award amounts for compensation for crime victims and survivors of crime victims; including expanding the definition of “victim” to include a surviving parent of the decedent’s child, so that a surviving parent who is not married to the decedent may apply for compensation for the decedent’s child;
- Extending the window within which a claim may be filed;
- Expediting determinations of eligibility and payment to beneficiaries; and
- Prohibiting denial of a claim based on the victim’s failure to pay certain assessments, while allowing outstanding assessments to be deducted from award amount.
An identical version of the bill is currently pending a hearing in the Assembly Judiciary Committee. A copy of Senator Oroho’s legislation can be found here.
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