Crime Victims Can See Costs Pile Up, But New Law May Help

By Jeannie O’Sullivan | February 9, 2020, 8:02 PM EST

A newly signed law in New Jersey allowing victims of violent crime to receive greater compensation for legal fees represents a critical milestone in the Garden State’s efforts to financially support that vulnerable population, who can face mounting costs in the wake of a tragedy, advocates say.

The measure signed by Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy on Jan. 21 will not only increase the amount of compensation for legal fees from $3,000 to $10,000, but also expand the compensation eligibility criteria the list of compensable crimes and the statute of limitations for filing claims.

Attorney Richard D. Pompelio, whose son Tony was was murdered in 1989 at the age of 17, is a chief architect of recently signed legislation in New Jersey increasing the amount of legal fees compensation for victims of violent crime.It’s a major step forward in the state’s continuing evolution in how it helps victims of violent crime, according to attorney Richard D. Pompelio. A chief architect of the legislation, Pompelio founded the New Jersey Crime Victims’ Law Center in Sparta three years after his teen son Tony’s murder.

“In the past, all those victims walked into the court without a lawyer. Now, it’s different,” Pompelio said.

As a former chairman of what is now the state’s Victims of Crime Compensation Office, Pompelio observed the evolution of what he described as a onetime “patronage pit” that often turned away victims, particularly ones with criminal records.

Along with funerals, medical bills, mental health counseling and a host of other expenses, attorney fees are among the costs that plagued already traumatized victims working with funding that paled in comparison to other states, Pompelio said.

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