California created the nation’s first Victim Compensation Program (CalVCP) in 1965. Responsibility for this program was transferred to the Victims of Crime and Government Control Board in 1967 and has since become its largest program. It assists victims with resolution, including reimbursed expenses or losses to the injured party as a result of criminal acts. These include domestic violence, human trafficking, hate crimes, and online harassment. CalVCP has initiated a campaign to focus on five highlighted issues: Domestic Violence, Human Trafficking, Mental Health, and Stalking. There are Victim Witness Assistance Centers in each county and one more in the city of Los Angeles that work directly with the California Victim Compensation Program (CalVCP) to assist victims.
Physical injuries are traumatizing and emotional stress endured by victims can be debilitating and present road blocks to recovery. Some experiences may include intrusive flashbacks, sleep issues, and detachment from others. Even when a victim returns to regular daily activities, progress is inhibited without access to appropriate resources. Many victims find themselves struggling to pay for mental health services and new legislation has included financial assistance for peer support groups and services focused on victims of crimes.
CalVCP funding comes from restitution paid by criminal offenders through fines, orders, penalty assessments and federal matching funds. To be eligible for compensation, a person must be a victim of a qualifying crime involving physical injury, threat of physical injury, or death. For certain crimes, emotional injury alone is enough to qualify. Certain family members and loved ones who suffer an economic loss from an injury to, or death of, a victim of a crime may also be eligible for compensation. In addition to being the victim of a qualifying violent crime, applicants must also:
• Be either a resident of California or the victim of a crime that happened in California.
• Generally, report the crime to the police, sheriff, child protective services, or some other law enforcement agency.
• In most cases, apply to CalVCP within three years of the time the crime happened.
• Cooperate with law enforcement during the investigation and prosecution of the crime.
• Not have participated in or been involved in committing the crime.
• Cooperate by providing the information needed to review the application.
Minors who suffer emotional injuries from witnessing a violent crime may be eligible for up to $5,000 in mental health counseling through CalVCP. A law that went into effect in 2009 allows the minor witness to be eligible for assistance even if he or she is unrelated to the crime victim. To qualify, the minor witness must have been in close proximity to the crime.
The Victim’s Compensation Board (CalVCB) is the payer of last resort and there is some exclusion from financial compensation. Reimbursement and recovery sources are applied to all expenses, like medical and disability insurance first. Employer benefits and civil suites are also paid before any disbursement for other expenses. CalVCB cannot pay for any expense not related to the crime, including expenses for lost, stolen or damaged property. CalVCB cannot pay any expenses incurred while a person is on parole, probation or post-release community supervision for a violent felony; incarcerated or required to register as a sex offender. This does not affect an application’s eligibility. It instead stops payment for expenses that are incurred during incarceration and felon or registered sex offender status.
Contact your Victim Witness Assistance Center to access resources and affiliates providing advocacy and services. The advocates can assist with completing applications for CalVCP and provide more information about the criminal justice system. Applications are not required for resources regarding counseling, supportive resources, and recovery programs.