Cornyn, Colleagues Introduce Bill to Ensure Crime Victims’ Representatives Receive Restitutions
U.S. Senators John Cornyn (R-TX), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and U.S. Representatives Harriet Hageman (WY-At-Large) and Lucy McBath (GA-07) today introduced the Victims’ Voices Outside and Inside the Courtroom Effectiveness (Victims’ VOICES) Act, which would ensure family members, legal guardians, and those appointed by the court who act on behalf of a victim during certain criminal court case proceedings receive restitution from convicted defendants for the costs they incur as a result of the offense, including transportation, lost income, and childcare:
“Family members and others who act on behalf of the victim of a violent crime, including children and the deceased, should be fairly compensated for the expenses they incur to vindicate the victim’s rights,” said Sen. Cornyn. “This legislation would make sure these individuals receive the restitution they are rightfully owed from those who committed the crime.”
“Victims and their loved ones face tremendous hardship in the aftermath of violent crimes, and costly fees incurred while seeking justice only add to this stress,” said Sen. Blumenthal. “The Victims’ Voices Outside and Inside the Courtroom Effectiveness Act ensures that those acting on behalf of victims receive fair and full compensation, lightening the burden for victims and their families and making it easier to fully access justice.”
“Under federal law, those convicted of certain crimes are required to pay restitution to their victims – helping cover necessary expenses such as medical care,” said Sen. Blackburn. “However, that is not the case for a person assuming the rights of a victim who is a minor, deceased or unable to act for themselves. This is important legislation to ensure all victims receive the justice they deserve.”
“The road to recovery after a violent crime can be costly for both victims and their loved ones who support them,” said Sen. Whitehouse. “Our bipartisan legislation would expand restitution coverage to ensure families of victims are financially supported while holding perpetrators accountable and seeking justice.”
“I am proud to introduce this bicameral, bipartisan legislation which clarifies Congressional intent in the wake of harmful judicial interpretations,” said Rep. Hageman. “By guaranteeing that a person who assumes the rights of a victim is eligible for restitution, we will strengthen the ability to care for victims and bring fully to justice those who harmed them. Treating victims with fairness and compassion should be a unanimous concept and I look forward to seeing the Victims’ VOICES Act become law.”
“The devastation and hardship in the aftermath of a crime can have ripple effects across a victim’s entire support network. Parents and guardians may face significant challenges of their own when assisting a loved one as they seek to heal from a traumatic event,” said Rep. McBath. “The Victims’ VOICES Act ensures that a parent, guardian, or court-appointed individual is guaranteed eligibility for restitution if they must assume the rights of the victim they are supporting. I am proud to champion this bipartisan, bicameral legislation and thank my colleagues for their collaboration.”
Representatives Nathaniel Moran (TX-01) and Hank Johnson (GA-04) also cosponsored this legislation.
The Mandatory Victims Restitution Act, which was signed into law in 1996, requires defendants convicted of certain crimes, including violent crime, to pay restitution to their victims. The restitution can cover a number of costs, including transportation, lost income, and childcare costs incurred while participating in the investigation or prosecution of the offense as well as medical and nonmedical care and treatment and associated costs. In the case of a victim who is a minor, deceased, incapacitated, or otherwise not capable of acting on his or her own behalf, a family member, legal guardian, or a person appointed by the court may “assume” the victim’s rights.
In many jurisdictions, individuals acting on a victim’s behalf have been precluded from receiving restitution for their own lost income, transportation, childcare, and other costs. This imposes a significant hardship on the victim’s representative and a barrier to vindicating the victim’s rights. The Victims’ VOICES Act would amend existing law to clarify that a person who acts on behalf of a victim is eligible to receive restitution for the expenses associated with participating in the investigation or prosecution of the offense, attending related court proceedings, or transporting a victim to receive medical, therapy, rehabilitation, or other services.
This legislation is endorsed by the National District Attorneys Association, Raven, National Children’s Alliance, Major County Sheriffs of America, the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN), and National Native American Law Enforcement Association.