Have you or a loved one been the victim of a violent crime within the last three years? You may be entitled to compensation, according to Michelle Lee, victim services coordinator for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.
“If somebody is the innocent victim of a crime, we pay funeral costs, we pay lost wages, we pay dependencies, we pay medical bills,” said Lee at Monday evening’s Southeast District Police Community Relations Council meeting, at which she was the guest speaker.
The words “innocent victim” are key. “Participatory conduct” toward the crime from the victim would invalidate a claim, Lee said.
“If you’re drunk and you assault someone and get beat down, don’t come and see us, because that’s participatory conduct,” Lee said.
The participatory conduct rule also applies to crime victims found in possession of guns or drugs at the time of the crime. Police reports are always obtained before a decision is made on whether to compensate a victim, Lee added. “We absolutely need a police report, because we have a lot of ‘innocent’ children come through, and then we talk to the police and they’re not so innocent,” she said.
Who may file a claim? According to the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services website, dpscs.state.md.us, anyone who has suffered a physical injury—or a psychological or emotional injury—as a result of a crime may apply. Surviving spouses and children of a homicide victim may apply. (Lee noted that if a father is murdered, he must be living with and contributing to his family in order for the family to receive compensation.) Any person dependent on a homicide victim for principal support may apply. Any person who assumes the funeral costs for a homicide victim may apply.
The Criminal Injuries Compensation Board, which votes on whether to award compensation, may award up to $45,000 for medical expenses; $25,000 for disability; psychological expenses to $5,000; funeral costs to $5,000; full dependency to $25,000; and partial dependency to $17,000.
Lee noted that such compensation is a “last resort,” and victims should go through their insurance companies first.
A resident mentioned that a rumor had circulated stating that the the state gives $45,000 to everyone who is shot.
Lee said it wasn’t true.
“If we were giving away $45,000 for everyone that got shot, then shoot me in the foot,” she joked.
A resident asked where the compensation money comes from. Lee replied that the funds, in large part, come from court fines.
Since she began working for the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board, Lee said, “I now understand why it’s so important for judges to make people pay their fines.”
A resident asked if there is any similar compensation available for property lost during a crime—a stolen purse, for example.
There isn’t, replied Lee.
Another resident asked if a victim of violent crime must be a legal citizen in order to receive compensation.
No, replied Lee.
“We don’t ask their immigration status.” The Criminal Injuries Compensation Board may be contacted at 410-585-3010. For more information, visit dpscs.state.md.us.
by Erik Zygmont