Rights of Crime Victims

Introduction: In California, when you are hurt because of a crime you have a right to be compensated for the financial, emotional and physical loses you suffer. See how you can back damages below.

Question: Dear Mr. Cheng, I am a mom of four. Recently, I was in a home invasion robbery. Several people came into my house and made my children and I lay on the ground while they took everything of value. Fortunately, they were arrested. My house is now in shambles. They have turned my life upside down. I don’t want to live here anymore and my kids cry every night. I want to get revenge. Is there anything I can do? Sammy – Monterey Park

Answer: Dear Sammy, I am sorry to hear about what happened to you. As a former prosecutor I am disgusted with people that take advantage of others. A person that has been injured by another in most criminal actions can seek compensation in several ways. One is a restitution order. Another is to collect from the State Restitution Fund. The third is a civil lawsuit. The CA Constitution requires the court to order a convicted person to pay restitution to the victim. At the time the convicted person is sentenced, the judge will order him or her to pay you for losses caused by the crime. The convicted person may be ordered to compensate for the following types of losses: 1) The value of stolen or damaged property; 2) Medical expenses; 3) Wages or profits by the victim or lost by the parents or guardian of a victim who is a minor ; 4) Psychological harm and other nonfinancial losses for felony violations done against children; 5) Interest at the rate of 10 percent per year; and 6) Attorney fees and other costs of collection. Note that once the Restitution order is entered you can enforce it like a civil judgment. This means you can collect the money ordered by garnishing the defendant’s wages or attaching his or her property or other assets.

The second way to obtain compensation is through the State Restitution Fund. The State Restitution Fund was established to assist victims of crime. The money in the fund comes from other person convicted of crimes. To receive payment from the fund, you must apply within one year from the crime, unless you are a victim under the age of 18. To be eligible from this fund you must meet one of the following criteria. 1) You were the victim of a crime during which you were physically injured or threatened with a physical injury; or 2) You were the parent, sibling, or child of the victim; or 3) You were living in the household of the victim at the time of the crime; or 4) You have lived with the victim for at least two years in a relationship similar to a parent, sibling, spouse, or child; or 5) You were family member of the victim, including the victim’s fiancé(e), and you witnessed the crime. If you are eligible, you may be paid for medical or medically related expenses, mental health counseling for the victim and family members, funeral and burial expenses, and loss of income or support. Note that if you have insurance that covers those losses you cannot receive compensation from the fun until you have exhausted those resources.

Lastly, you may be able to sue either the person who committed the crime or another financially responsible party. For example, if the person who committed the crime is a minor, you may sue the minor’s parents.

A civil lawsuit for damages may permit you to recover losses that are not covered by a restitution order or the State Restitution Fund. Note that if the amount you are seeking is under $5,000.00 use the small claims court.

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