SACRAMENTO, Calif. /California Newswire/ — On Tuesday, Calif. Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 934 (Cooley), requiring agencies that collect restitution on behalf of crime victims to make reasonable efforts to locate and distribute the money to the victim, before the agency distributes the money to itself or another local agency.
“Protecting victims of crime and aiding their recovery is a top priority in our state, yet sometimes victims do not get the funds earmarked for them by the courts and are forced to rebuild their lives without this help,” said Assemblyman Ken Cooley. “This bill helps ensure a compensated victim is found and given the restitution they are owed so that they may start on the path to rebuilding their life.”
While well intended, current statute requires government agencies to make minimal effort – a printed announcement in the local newspaper – to contact the victim of a crime and disburse the appointed money to them. If the victim is not located, unclaimed restitution is deposited into the Victim Restitution Fund, or used by a local victim services agency if the money is not claimed within three years.
“Law enforcement agencies I have spoken to do due diligence to find the victims of crime and give them the money they are owed, but the reality is, many victims move or go into hiding after crime touches their lives,” said Cooley. “AB 934 helps ensure these quiet and frightened victims are not overlooked, and are given the attention and money they are entitled to.”
Under the California Constitution’s Victims’ Bill of Rights, judges are required to issue restitution orders to offenders, requiring them to pay victims who have suffered an economic loss as a result of the crime. In most cases, victim compensation is managed and distributed by a county’s district attorney or probation office.