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Victims of Crime Act of (1984)

The Victims of Crime Act of 1984 (VOCA) was an attempt by the federal government to help the victims of criminal actions through means other than punishment of the criminal. It created a federal victims-compensation account funded by fines assessed in federal criminal convictions, and it established provisions to assist state programs that compensated the victims of crimes. The compensation system is still in existence, having distributed over $1 billion in funds since it began.

The statute, codified at 42 U.S.C.A. § 10601, was a direct result of a task force set up by the JUSTICE DEPARTMENT under the auspices of President RONALD REAGAN. Called the President's Task Force on Victims of Crime, the report issued by the task force in 1982 was harshly critical of existing victims-compensation programs. "In many states, program availability is not advertised for fear of depleting available resources or overtaxing a numerically inadequate staff. Victim claims might have to wait months until sufficient fines have been collected or until a new fiscal year begins and the budgetary fund is replenished," according to the report.

VOCA established the Crime Victim's Fund, which is supported by all fines that are collected from persons who have been convicted of offenses against the United States, except for fines that are collected through certain environmental statues and other fines that are specifically designated for certain accounts, such as the Postal Service Fund. The fund also includes special assessments collected for various federal crimes under 18 USC § 3613, the proceeds of forfeited appearance bonds, bail bonds, and collateral collected, any money ordered to be paid into the fund under section 3671(c)(2) of Title 18; and any gifts, bequests, or donations to the fund from private entities or individuals.

The first $10 million from the fund, plus an added amount depending on how much has been deposited in the fund for that fiscal year, goes to child-abuse prevention and treatment programs. After that, such sums as may be necessary are made available for the U.S. Attorneys' Offices and the FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION to improve services for the benefit of crime victims in the federal criminal justice system, and for a Victim Notification System.

Once those distributions have been made, the fund is distributed to victim-compensation programs in two different ways. One is to eligible victims-compensation programs. The law sets up a number criteria as to whether a program is eligible including: 1) whether it is a program operated by the state that offers compensation to victims and survivors of victims of criminal violence; 2) whether the program promotes victim cooperation with the reasonable requests of law enforcement authorities; 3) whether the state certifies that grants received under this section will not be used to supplant state funds that are otherwise available to provide crime-victim compensation; 4) whether the program makes compensation awards to victims who are nonresidents of the state on the basis of the same criteria that are used to make awards to victims who are residents of such state; 5) and whether the program provides compensation to victims of federal crimes occurring within the state on the same basis that such program provides compensation to victims of state crimes. The program also must not deny compensation to any victim because of that victim's familial relationship to the offender, or because of the sharing of a residence by the victim and the offender, nor may it provide compensation to any person who has been convicted of an offense under federal law with respect to any time period during which the person is delinquent in paying a fine, other monetary penalty, or restitution imposed for the offense.

The other way the fund provides compensation is to give the money directly to the governor of a state for the financial support of eligible crime-victim assistance programs. The governor must certify that priority for money from the fund will be given to eligible crime-victim assistance programs providing assistance to victims of sexual assault, spousal abuse, or CHILD ABUSE; and he must certify that funds will be made available for grants to programs that serve previously underserved populations of victims of violent crimes.

A small percentage of the fund is reserved for demonstration projects, program evaluation, compliance efforts, and training and technical assistance services to eligible crime-victim assistance programs. The fund also has recently expanded to apply to potential victims of TERRORISM and is authorized to set aside $50,000,000 from the amounts transferred to it in response to the SEPTEMBER 11, 2001, TERRORIST ATTACKS as an antiterrorism emergency reserve.


Greer, Desmond S. 1994. "A Transatlantic Perspective on the Compensation of Crime Victims in the United States." Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology 85 (Fall).

Roland, David L. 1989. "Progress in the Victim Reform Movement: No Longer the 'Forgotten Victim.'" Pepper-dine Law Review 17 (December).

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