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  • February 24, 2021

    The Crime Victims Compensation Program

    As public interest attorneys, we should approach our client representation in a holistic way, says Elizabeth Stinebaugh. In this Tip of the Month, Stinebaugh discusses a helpful resource – the Crime Victims Compensation program, which assists those who have suffered bodily harm or mental trauma.

    Elizabeth Stinebaugh

    As public interest attorneys, we recognize the problems for which our clients seek our help are often just one part of a much bigger issue or issues.

    For example, a client who seeks help with divorce, custody, and placement may also need help obtaining a restraining order and/or applying for public benefits if their household income has changed.

    As a section, PILS endeavors to provide training and resources to our members so we can, when appropriate, approach our client representation in a holistic way. This is particularly true when the resource is one of which a PILS member may not easily be aware, depending on their practice area.

    Elizabeth Stinebaugh, University of the District of Columbia 2013, is a staff attorney in the Racine office of Legal Action of Wisconsin.

    One such resource is the Wisconsin Department of Justice's Crime Victims Compensation (CVC) program.

    Particularly for those of us who are civil attorneys, we may not consider the CVC when advising our clients. The number of people who may be eligible for compensation is broader than one might think.

    The CVC was created by Wis. Stat. chapter 949, subchapter 1. It applies to crimes committed on or after January 1977. The annual amount authorized by the state is approximately $3.3 million; the maximum amount that can be paid per application is $40,000.

    People who are eligible for CVC include:

    • innocent victims who are injured or killed as a result of a compensable crime;

    • innocent victims injured or killed while attempting or succeeding in:

      • preventing a crime/aiding a law enforcement officer;

      • apprehending an offender; or

      • aiding a victim of a compensable crime; and

    • the survivor of an innocent victim killed in a criminal act.

    The victim must have suffered actual bodily harm or mental/psychological trauma, and the crime must be reported to law enforcement within five days, although this may be waived in the interest of justice (for example, if a person is the victim of childhood sexual abuse).

    The application to the CVC program must be filed within one year of the crime, although, again, this may be waived in the interest of justice.

    The CVC covers such expenses as funeral expenses; medical, dental, counseling, and treatment resulting from the crime; lost wages; loss of support; limited property replacement for certain property held for evidence; and crime scene cleanup costs.

    So, as in the example above, a potential client approaches you seeking a divorce, custody, and placement of their minor child. They tell you there was an incident of domestic violence and the police have taken their laptop as evidence that their child needs for school. They cannot afford to replace it. Also, both they and their child were physically assaulted; they had to miss work and so they had reduced income and are struggling to pay their rent.

    Furthermore, their child needed medical attention that was not covered by their insurance and they do not know how they will cover the expense. In addition to the other legal advice you might give, or resources you might tell them about, you could point them toward the CVC program as a possible solution.

    For more information on the CVC, call (800) 446-6564, or visit the Wisconsin Department of Justice's Office of Crime Victims Services website.

    This article was originally published on the State Bar of Wisconsin’s Public Interest Law Section Blog. Visit the State Bar sections or the Public Interest Law Section web pages to learn more about the benefits of section membership.


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    Public Interest Law Section Blog is published by the State Bar of Wisconsin; blog posts are written by section members. To contribute to this blog, contact Jacob Haller and review Author Submission Guidelines. Learn more about the Public Interest Law Section or become a member.

    Disclaimer: Views presented in blog posts are those of the blog post authors, not necessarily those of the Section or the State Bar of Wisconsin. Due to the rapidly changing nature of law and our reliance on information provided by outside sources, the State Bar of Wisconsin makes no warranty or guarantee concerning the accuracy or completeness of this content.

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