States throughout the U.S. offer compensation to crime victims and those who survive them, and New Jersey is no exception. The N.J. Crime Victim Compensation Program is administered by the state attorney general, and it pays out millions in compensation to crime victims every year. In 2017, the program paid out an estimated $8.3 million to victims across the state. Some of the money paid out through the program comes from federal programs, fines, and penalties assessed on those who commit crimes. Recently, reports emerged detailing a federal audit and several problems associated with the victim compensation program in New Jersey. Here are some of the issues that came to light and why the N.J. Crime Victim Compensation Program matter if you’re facing criminal charges.
NJ Victims of Crime Compensation Fund Surcharges
New Jersey’s Victims of Crime Compensation Office dedicates funding to victims and families who suffer as a result of violent crimes in our state. The crimes covered by the VCCF include DWI, aggravated assault, murder, manslaughter, assault by auto, burglary, carjacking, domestic violence offenses, kidnapping, drug and food tampering, eluding a police officer, lewdness, robbery, and sex crimes. If you are convicted of any of these offenses, you will be required to pay a surcharge to the Victims of Crime Compensation Fund on top of any other fines, fees, and court costs issued in your case.
Multiple news outlets have reported on a federal audit that suggested the crime victim compensation program—which has assisted thousands of victims throughout New Jersey—has failed to safeguard those victims’ confidential and personal information. According to outlets reporting on the audit, the compensation program did not restrict access to victims’ full names, addresses, birth dates, social security numbers, and even addresses for those victims who relocated after a crime.
A spokesperson for the New Jersey Attorney General’s office has responded that the personal information was only shared internally; federal auditors nevertheless noted that anyone logging into the program’s database, regardless of their position or place in the program’s hierarchy, could access claim information and victim personal data. Records were not kept of which user accessed which types of data.
A Department of Justice audit further identified that, although most payments to victims were properly documented in compliance with New Jersey law, over $100,000 in payments relating to security deposits paid to landlords when crime victims relocated were not tracked or recovered.
Possible Changes to the Crime Victim Compensation Program in NJ
The New Jersey Victim of Crime Compensation Office states that it will continue to help crime victims relocate, including by supplying them with the money they need to make security deposits on new apartments, but the office is considering new procedural safeguards designed to track the payment of those security deposits and similar expenditures.
Regarding the potential privacy failures, the federal audit notes that over 100,000 unique crime victim claims and a trove of personal information was potentially at risk, and the state was aware of that risk prior to the audit. New Jersey officials have responded that they are planning new controls on individuals’ ability to access victim information.
Get Help Avoiding Fines & Fees for Criminal & DWI Charges
If you wish to speak with a knowledgeable criminal lawyer about your best defense for DWI charges, assault, domestic violence, robbery, or another crime, call (908) 838-0150 today. We serve all of Union County, including Cranford, Westfield, Summit, Scotch Plains, New Providence, Berkeley Heights, Linden, and Elizabeth. A member of our team is available immediately to provide you with a free consultation.