Assemblymember Bichotte Passes Legislation to Help Crime Victims

Albany, NY – Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte announced today that she helped pass a legislative package to help crime victims, including measures that would provide vital services to help them rebuild their lives. The legislation coincides with National Crime Victims' Rights Week, which is recognized April 19-25 this year.

"National Crime Victims' Rights Week is a time to raise awareness about the need to assist those who have tragically been the victim of a crime, as well as their families,"Assemblymember Bichotte said. "The legislation I helped pass will provide vital assistance to those who have lost so much and who deserve not only justice, but also a helping hand to get back on their feet."

Easing the financial burden on victims and their families, the Assembly passed a measure that would expand victims' benefits to include counseling expenses for surviving family members of homicide victims, including domestic partners (A.3694).

"Losing a loved one takes an enormous emotional toll, especially when the tragedy is the result of a violent criminal act,” Assemblymember Bichotte said. "Those who have lost a family member in such a way deserve our support as well as our sympathy -and this legislation would provide them with services, financial assistance and counseling to begin rebuilding their lives." In addition, the Assembly passed several bills that would help provide financial support to victims. One bill would allow courts to direct all or a portion of certain fines to the Office of Victim Services (A.2661), creating another revenue source to fund its victims assistance and victims compensation programs. Another measure would allow victims to receive compensation for transportation costs associated with necessary court appearances (A.1097). A third bill would increase the threshold for when it is necessary to prove financial difficulty for claims made with the Office of Victim Services, streamlining the claims process and making it less burdensome for crime victims to get compensation (A.6943).

Supporting victims of sexual assault and rape

The Assembly also passed legislation that would extend orders of protection issued in relation to felony or misdemeanor sexual assault cases to ensure that victims are protected while their abusers are on probation (A.1797-A).

Another piece of important legislation passed by the Assembly would redefine rape by removing the penetration requirement and including in the definition other forms of non-consensual sexual conduct that are currently recognized by the law only as "criminal sexual acts"(A.4959-A).

"It's unconscionable to think that a rapist could get off with a lesser charge -and a victim of rape could be denied justice – simply due to a legal technicality,” Assemblymember Bichotte said. "This legislation would empower victims by treating them equally in the eyes of the law."

Protecting the rights of victims and their families

The Assembly's legislative package includes a bill that would help ensure victims of violent crimes or sex offenses are informed of their right to submit a statement to the state Parole Board if and when their perpetrator is being considered for parole (A.6945).

"Anyone who has been the victim of a violent crime has a right to be heard when the individual who committed that crime is being considered for parole,” Assemblymember Bichotte said. "This legislation will help ensure that victims’ voices are heard, not just when perpetrators are brought to justice, but also when they are given the possibility of being released back into the community."

Safeguarding individuals who report crimes

Also included in the legislative package is a bill that would protect the right of tenants to report criminal acts, including acts of domestic violence, without the fear of losing their housing as the result of landlord actions or local nuisance laws (A.1322). Currently, many municipalities throughout the state have nuisance laws, which can be overly broad and, as a result, dissuade victims from calling the police or reporting crimes. Further, landlords would be protected from any penalties for respecting the rights of tenants to request police or emergency assistance.

"The right to call the police and request help should never be denied, and no one who seeks help from law enforcement or emergency personnel should have to fear that they will lose their home as a result," Assemblymember Bichotte said.