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New York Expands "Son of Sam" Law Giving Crime Victims More "Clout"

New York Expands "Son of Sam" Law Giving Crime Victims More "Clout"

by Lonnie Burton

In June 2001, the State of New York amended its socalled "Son of Sam" law to allow crime victims to collect on any monies a prisoner receives while in prison and to extend the statute of limitations on such claims to 10 years.

The "Son of Sam" law, which had enabled crime victims to sue defendants only for profits they received from book and movie deals, was originally enacted to prevent defendants from profiting from the notoriety of their crimes. The law has now been expanded to allow a victim of a crime to sue their perpetrator anytime he or she receives funds or property in excess of $10,000.

The new law sets up an elaborate system by which New York's Crime Victim's Board (CVB) notifies all known crime victims that a prisoner has received such funds and that he is no longer judgmentproof. The CVB is authorized to attach a prisoner's assets so that the prisoner can't spend it before a crime victim can act to collect it.

Under the law, crime victims are also authorized to seize all funds in a prisoner's trust account in excess of $1,000 to satisfy any judgment. In addition, up to 90% of compensatory damages and 100% of any punitive damages awarded to a prisoner in a civil suit is now subject to seizure by crime victims.

Readers should note the U.S. Supreme Court, in Simon & Schuster, Inc. v. Members of the New York State Crime Victims Board , 112 S. Ct. 501 (1991), had previously struck down this law on First Amendment grounds. It is unclear at this time what, if any, challenges will be brought against this new legislation.

The Bill was signed into law by Governor George Pataki on June 25, 2001.

Source: New York State Defender Association's Public Defense Backup Center Report.

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