Detailed Program Description
Maine Crime Victims' Compensation Program
Maine Victims' Compensation Program offers financial assistance to victims of crime. This overview provides information on how the program works and how victims of crime may access this support.
Victims of criminal violence in Maine often suffer physical and emotional trauma. The aftermath of a violent crime may leave victims and their families overwhelmed and financially burdened. In recognition of the financial hardship crime victims often suffer, the Maine Legislature in the spring of 1992 created the Victims' Compensation Fund and Victims' Compensation Board (5 M.R.S.A. §§3360-3360-M). This statute provides a mechanism through which eligible crime victims may receive up to $15,000 in financial support for medical and medically-related expenses incurred as a direct result of a crime.
The Victims' Compensation Program is located in the Criminal Division of the Office of the Attorney General. It is administered by a director and a staff of two, who investigate and verify claims for presentation to the Victims' Compensation Board. The Board, which meets monthly to make decisions on claims, is comprised of three members drawn from Maine's legal, medical and victim services communities. Maine has been fortunate to have had a concerned and committed Board since its first meeting in January 1994.
The monies utilized for victim awards and program administration come from the Victims' Compensation Fund. Funds for the Victims' Compensation Fund come from assessments levied against criminal offenders: $25.00 for murder, Class A, B and C crimes, and $10.00 for Class D and E crimes. No tax dollars fund either the administration of the Program or the payments of awards to victims.
The Victims' Compensation Fund also includes smaller amounts of money from other sources such as restitution and subrogated claims. The Fund is NOT intended as a substitute for restitution. If appropriate, the court may order restitution as part of a sentence. In circumstances where the Fund has made an award, such restitution may be payable directly to the Victims' Compensation Fund. Additionally, if awards made from the Fund are duplicated by recovery in a civil action or insurance settlement, the law requires reimbursement of the Fund. Finally, the Program is eligible for and receives some federal matching monies, which come from federal criminal fines and penalties rather than tax dollars.
What Is An Eligible Expense?
The Board may award up to $15,000 for actual medical and medically-related expenses or losses incurred as a direct result of crime-related injuries. These expenses or losses may include mental health counseling, lost wages, loss of support, burial and funeral expenses. In addition, counseling expenses are covered for certain family and household members of certain victims. No property losses are covered other than replacement costs of eyeglasses, dentures and other prosthetic devices and some costs of crime scene cleanup.
The Compensation Program is a "payor of last resort." An expense is eligible for payment from the Fund only it there is no collateral source of payment. Collateral sources include, but are not limited to, insurance, Medicaid, Medicare, and workers' compensation.
Eligible Crime Victims/Compensable Crimes/Reporting
To be eligible, a person must be a victim of a compensable crime committed on or after January 1, 1993. The crime must be one of the following types: (1) an offense against the person (Title 17-A, chapter 9), (2) a sexual assault (Title 17-A, chapter 11), (3) a kidnapping and/or criminal restraint (Title 17-A, chapter 13), (4) a robbery (Title 17-A, chapter 27), (5) a drunk driving incident (Title 29-A, §2411), or (6) sexual exploitation of a minor (Title 17-A, Chapter 12). The Board may find a victim eligible if, by leaving the scene of a personal injury accident, an offending driver makes it impossible for the Board to determine whether there is another basis for eligibility. The victim must suffer bodily injury or be threatened with bodily injury except in instances of sexual assaults. NOTE: The crime need not result in a successful prosecution. The Board may consider an application regardless of the status of the criminal process. However, to make an award, the Board must find by a preponderance of the evidence that a compensable crime in fact did occur.
There are some statutory restrictions. First, compensation may only be paid to innocent victims; it may not be paid to or on behalf of any person who violated a criminal law that contributed to or caused the injury for which compensation is sought. Also, the victim must report the crime to a law enforcement agency and must cooperate with the reasonable requests of law enforcement officers and prosecuting authorities. The law provides for a report to police to be made within 5 days of the occurrence of the crime unless there is good cause for delay; however, this time limit is always waived for children and may be waived for adults as well.
An application must be filed by the victim with the Compensation Board within three years of the crime or 60 days of the discovery of the injury or compensable loss, whichever is later, unless there is good cause for failing to file. Again, the Board has applied this waiver very liberally.
The victim or a claimant acting on the victim's behalf must complete a standard application form. Forms are available from the Victims' Compensation Program office and through all District Attorneys' Victim Witness Advocate Programs. The application must be signed and sent to the Victims' Compensation Board. Release forms are included with the application to allow staff to compile and verify information. When all information and documentation necessary to support a victim's claims have been submitted, the case is reviewed by the Board at its next monthly meeting. Most claims can be verified by staff and are approved by the Board; however, if the Board issues a denial, a claimant can request a hearing before the Board. If the case is denied after hearing, the claimant may appeal to Superior Court.
In the year 2000, the Maine Legislature made the Victims’ Compensation Program responsible for paying the costs of forensic examinations, up to a maximum of $500, for victims of gross sexual assault. These examinations almost always are performed in hospitals and must be performed with a sexual assault kit. Hospitals bill the VCP directly for these examinations, and they may not balance bill the victim or any source other than the VCP. The victim need not report the sexual assault to police to have these services covered by the VCP. If the victim has services which are not part of the initial testing and treatment for a sexual assault, such as x-rays, follow-up medications, or counseling, the hospital may bill the victim or the victim’s insurance. A victim may file a regular application with the VCP to ask for reimbursement for such additional charges. If applying for this additional help, the victim will need to report the crime to law enforcement.
For more information, please contact:
Victims’ Compensation Program
Office of the Attorney General
6 State House Station
Augusta, Maine 04333-0006
Tel.: (207) 624-7882
Deborah Shaw Rice, Director