In recognition of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, April 18-24, the Assembly passed several measures Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan (D-Queens) supported to help crime victims and their families rebuild their lives in the wake of the devastation caused by crime.
“Each year, thousands of people in New York State become victims of violent crime – this includes the families and loved ones of those against whom the crime was committed,” Assemblywoman Nolan said. “The Assembly’s package of legislation creates new crimes and provides assistance to victims and their families by enhancing victim advocacy and protection, as well as financial compensation.”
Advocating for victims’ rights
One measure in the Assembly’s package of bills provides for the Municipal Police Training Council (MPTC) to develop policies and procedures for new and veteran police officers in the investigation of and intervention into crimes involving sexual assault (A.10571).
“Crimes involving sexual assault bear their own brand of trauma and need to be handled with the utmost care and sensitivity,” Assemblywoman Nolan said. “This legislation would ensure that victims of sexual assault are approached by investigators in a responsible way that takes into account the unique damage inflicted on victims of those crimes.”
The enhanced policies and procedures will be developed in consultation with rape crisis centers experienced in assisting victims. It would also include provisions for training police officers in techniques for interviewing sexual assault victims, developing fair treatment standards for crime victims, providing information to victims about local services, and gathering and preserving evidence.
The Assembly’s package of bills includes a measure that widens the base of individuals who are considered “victims of domestic violence” and, thusly, are eligible for a broad array of benefits. The bill broadens the definition of “victim of domestic violence” by removing the age limitation and includes acts of sexual misconduct, forcible touching, sexual abuse, stalking, and criminal mischief among those crimes that would entitle a victim to receive consideration under the Social Services Law (A.10440-A).
“It is important to ensure that victims of domestic violence are afforded the services they need in light of a more modern and realistic understanding of what it means to be a victim of domestic violence,” Assemblywoman Nolan said.
Protecting victims from further harm
The Assembly’s package of bills also includes several measures aimed at protecting crime victims from further harm at the hands of an offender. These include bills:
- empowering courts to remove firearms and revoke firearm licenses from individuals who have been found to be legally incapacitated, ordered to treatment or committed to a mental health facility (A.7733-A);
- allowing victims of domestic violence to seek a state Supreme Court order directing that his or her voter registration record, which includes a home address, be kept confidential, except for limited purposes under the Election Law, as a means of ensuring an abuser cannot locate them (A.9368-A);
- providing for the statewide expansion of electronic processing of orders of protection to speed up delivery of orders to law enforcement so that those orders can be more rapidly served to offenders (A.10410). This measure expands statewide and makes permanent a pilot project that has already been implemented successfully in several New York counties; and
- consolidating reporting requirements for the Crime Victim Board’s (CVB), as well as changing the reporting requirements for restitution and fair-treatment standards from annually to every two years, allowing for more thorough analysis of the manner in which crime victims’ rights, needs and interests are being addressed (A.1380).
Curbing hate crimes
Victims of hate crimes are targeted specifically, in whole or in part, because of their race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, religious practice, age, disability or sexual orientation. Such crimes have a heightened impact on victims, because they threaten the safety and welfare of large groups of people and inflict significant physical and emotional damage on those who are victimized.
“The Assembly’s measures expand our current hate-crime laws to ensure that we’re doing what we need to do through education, training and counseling to deter hate crimes and protect all members of society, while recognizing the devastating psychological harm hate crimes cause because an individual is targeted simply because of who they are,” Assemblywoman Nolan said.
The Assembly’s hate-crime bills would:
- allow courts to require, as part of a sentence imposed upon a person convicted of a hate crime, that the defendant complete a program, training session or counseling session directed at hate-crime prevention and education (A.9220-A). This bill would also expand the development and provision of continuing legal education, training, advice and assistance for prosecutors for use in the prosecution of hate crimes; and
- establish a civil remedy for victims of intentional wrongdoing resulting in physical injury or death or damage to their property because of a belief or perception regarding the victim’s race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, age, disability or sexual orientation (A.529).
Easing financial hardships for crime victims
“Crime victims are often saddled with expenses beyond their control that force them to make tough decisions regarding their jobs, paying their bills or caring for their children,” Assemblywoman Nolan said. “This legislation will help victims recover by providing the compensation they need to begin to put their lives back together.”
The Assembly’s legislation will expand benefits to crime victims by:
- expanding eligibility for crime victims’ compensation to include domestic partners (A.4089-A); and
- permitting courts to direct anti-trust fine to be paid to the CVB, thereby putting more money into the programs that help victims (A.1046).
The package also includes a measure that would protect those who have had a false financing statement filed against them, a move that is meant to damage a victim’s credit (A.10572). The bill would empower courts to assist victims in proving that certain financial statements were false, thereby protecting victims’ credit and property.
“We need to take what steps we can to help crime victims and their loved ones recover from life-altering trauma and pain inflicted at the hands of an attacker or abuser,” Assemblywoman Nolan said. “This package includes several bills designed to protect victims from further harm and make it much easier for them to get the help they need and deserve.”