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AGLO 1977 No. 47 - October 26, 1977
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Slade Gorton | 1969-1980 | Attorney General of Washington

CRIMES ‑- COMPENSATION ‑- STATUTORY COMPENSATION FOR VICTIMS OF CERTAIN CRIMES ‑- PENALTY ASSESSMENT

(1) The term "victim," for purposes of the state crime victims compensation act, does not include those persons who have sustained only property losses as a result of a felony or gross misdemeanor.

(2) Under the provisions of § 10(1), chapter 302, Laws of 1977, 1st Ex. Sess., the court is to impose a $25 penalty assessment after conviction of a felony or gross misdemeanor involving a "victim" even if the punishment for the crime involves only incarceration.

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                                                                October 26, 1977

Honorable Paul Klasen
Prosecuting Attorney
Grant County
P.O. Box 1114
Ephrata, Washington 98823                                                                                                               Cite as:  AGLO 1977 No. 47

Dear Sir:

            By letter previously acknowledged you requested our opinion on two questions pertaining to the state crime victim compensation act, Chapter 7.68 RCW.  We paraphrase those questions as follows:

            (1) Does the term "victim," as used in the crime victims compensation act, include those persons who have sustained only property losses as a result of a felony or gross misdemeanor as well as those who have suffered personal injury in consequence of the commission of such a crime?

            (2) Under the newly enacted penalty section of the act,1/is the court to impose a $25 penalty  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] assessment after the conviction of a felony or gross misdemeanor involving a victim even if the punishment for the crime involves only incarceration?

            We answer question (1) in the negative and question (2) in the affirmative for the reasons set forth in our analysis.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            Question (1):

            Chapter 7.68 RCW, as you know, codifies the provisions of chapter 122, Laws of 1973, 1st Ex. Sess., as amended, and deals with payment of statutorily prescribed compensation to the victims of certain crimes and to their beneficiaries.  The key to our answer to your first question will be found in the definition of "victim" which appears in RCW 7.68.020(3).  As recently amended by § 2, chapter 302, Laws of 1977, 1st Ex. Sess., this definition now reads as follows:

            "(3) 'Victim' means a person who suffers bodily injury or death as a proximate result of a criminal act of another person, the victim's own good faith and reasonable effort to prevent a criminal act, or his good faith effort to apprehend a person reasonably suspected of engaging in a criminal act.  For the purposes of receiving benefits pursuant to this chapter, 'victim' shall be interchangeable with 'employee' or 'workman' as defined in chapter 51.08 RCW as now or hereafter amended."  (Emphasis supplied)

            From this definition it necessarily follows that a person who has only suffered a loss or damage to his property as a result of a criminal act, without any accompanying personal injury, is not within the scope of the term "victim" for the purposes of this particular state law providing for statutory compensation.  Moreover, the terminology of the foregoing definition section is consistent, in that regard, with the benefits provided by the act and with the statement of legislative intent which is incorporated therein, viz.,

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            "It is the intent of the legislature . . . to provide a method of compensating . . . innocent victims who suffer bodily injury or death. . ."  (Emphasis supplied)2/

            Question (2):

            Your second question arises from the language of the new section of the crime victims compensation act which was added to the law by § 10, chapter 302, Laws of 1977, 1st Ex. Sess., supra.  Specifically, § 10(1) of that amendatory act reads as follows:

            "(1) Whenever any person is found guilty in any court of competent jurisdiction of having committed an act prohibited under the provisions of Title 9A RCW as now or hereafter amended, which act involved a victim and is punishable as a felony or gross misdemeanor, there shall be imposed by the court upon such convicted person a penalty assessment in the amount of twenty-five dollars or ten percent of any other penalty or fine, whichever is greater, which penalty assessment shall be in addition to any other penalty or fine imposed by law."

            Repeated for ease of reference, your question regarding the foregoing is as follows:

            Under the newly enacted penalty section of the act, is the court to impose a $25 penalty assessment after the conviction of a felony or gross misdemeanor involving a victim even if the punishment for the crime involves only incarceration?

            By the plain wording of § 10(1), supra, a penalty is to be imposed whenever any person is convicted of an act, involving a "victim," which is punishable as a felony or gross misdemeanor.3/  Therefore, it follows that a penalty is to be  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] assessed in every such case, regardless of whether the convicted person is imprisoned, or fined, or both.  But from that it necessarily follows, in our judgment, that if incarceration is the only punishment the $25 penalty provision will be applicable as there simply will be no basis, in such a case, upon which to compute the alternative, 10%, penalty assessment provided for in the new statutory subsections.

            We trust that the foregoing will be of some assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

SLADE GORTON
Attorney General

CHARLES R. BUSH
Assistant Attorney General

                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***

1/Sec. 10(1), chapter 302, Laws of 1977, 1st Ex. Sess.

2/RCW 7.68.010, as amended by § 1, chapter 302, Laws of 1977, 1st Ex. Sess., supra.  See also, Cosway, Crime Compensation, 49 Wash.L.Rev. 551, 560 (1974).

3/The penalty is payable into the crime victims compensation account of the state general fund.   See, § 10(3), chapter 302,supra.

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