TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg that would help crime victims to secure legal representation is now law. The law, S3076, increases the amount that may be paid to attorneys through the state’s Victims of Crime Compensation Office, which assists innocent individuals whose lives have been tragically altered as a result of victimization from violent crimes by providing compensation for some expenses they suffer.
“Survivors of violent crimes, including those who have suffered domestic violence, often must rely on resources from the state victims’ fund to obtain legal representation in their cases. Unfortunately, the compensation limits for attorney’s fees have remained unchanged for more than a decade, and crime victims are finding it difficult to find a lawyer willing to take their case at the current rate,” said Senator Weinberg. “This new law will help residents get the help they need to advance their case through the legal system and to see justice served.”
The VCCO was established by the Criminal Injury Compensation Act of 1971 to help victims recover from the effects of violent crimes by providing financial assistance to victims, their families, and victim service providers to help alleviate the economic and emotional burdens of victimization.
Under previous law, the Victims of Crime Compensation Office could allow a payment of up $1,000 at an hourly rate set by the office (currently $125) to an attorney who provides legal assistance to a victim in any legal matter, including domestic violence, victims’ rights assistance, family law issues, and landlord tenant matters. This new law increases this payment to up to $3,000. The purpose of the fee is to encourage private attorneys to represent crime victims who would otherwise be unable to afford an attorney. The previous $1,000 fee had not been increased in over a decade and was not a sufficient incentive for attorneys to represent victims.
The Senate approved the bill by a vote of 27-9; the Assembly approved it 56-9-2. The law takes effect immediately.