Lungren, 053095 CAAGO, AGO 94-1208

Docket Nº:AGO 94-1208
Case Date:May 30, 1995
Court:California
 
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DANIEL E. LUNGREN Attorney General
MAXINE P. CUTLER Deputy Attorney General
AGO 94-1208
No. 94-1208
California Attorney General Opinion
Office of the Attorney General State of California
May 30, 1995
         THE HONORABLE FRED AGUIAR, MEMBER OF THE CALIFORNIA ASSEMBLY, has requested an opinion on the following questions:          1. May law enforcement officers be compensated under the victims of crime program for injuries sustained while performing official duties?          2. If law enforcement officers may be compensated under the victims of crime program, are their claims to be treated differently from the claims of other victims?          CONCLUSIONS          1. Law enforcement officers may be compensated under the victims of crime program for injuries sustained while performing official duties.          2. Under the victims of crime program, the claims of law enforcement officers are not to be treated differently from the claims of other victims.          ANALYSIS          The California Victims of Crime Act (Gov. Code, §§ 13959-13969.3; "Act")[1] was enacted in part to provide monetary assistance when residents of California suffer injury or death as a direct result of criminal conduct. (§ 13960, subd. (a).) The program is administered by the State Board of Control ("Board"), which is directed to approve compensation applications "if a preponderance of the evidence shows that as a direct result of the crime, the victim or a derivative victim incurred an injury which resulted in a pecuniary loss." (§ 13964.)2 Claims are paid from a restitution fund containing fines assessed against criminal defendants. (§ 13969; see 77 Ops.Cal.Atty.Gen. 180, 181, fn. 2 (1994).) The two questions presented for resolution concern applications for compensation filed with the Board by law enforcement officers.          1. Eligibility of Law Enforcement Officers          We are first asked whether law enforcement officers injured while performing official duties may receive benefits under the Act for injuries sustained. We conclude that they may recover for their pecuniary loss in such circumstances.          In analyzing this question, we may rely upon several principles of statutory interpretation. "In construing a statute, our principal task is to ascertain the intent of the Legislature." (Yoshisato v. Superior Court (1992) 2 Cal.4th 978, 989.) "We do so by first turning to the words themselves, giving them their ordinary meaning. [Citations.]" (People v. Broussard (1993) 5 Cal.4th 1067, 1071.) "'[W]hen statutory language is . . . clear and unambiguous there is no need for construction . . . .'" (Rojo v. Kliger (1990) 52 Cal.3d 65, 73.) A "'court has no power to rewrite the statute so as to make it conform to a presumed intention which is not expressed' . . . [also,] [t]he sweep of a statute should not be enlarged by insertion of language which the Legislature has overtly left out . . . ." (People v. Branno (1973) 32 Cal.App.3d 971, 977; see also Wells Fargo Bank v. Superior Court (1991) 53 Cal.3d 1082, 1097.) "When the Legislature 'has employed a term or phrase in one place and excluded it in another, it should not be implied where excluded.' ..." (Pasadena Police Officers Assn. v. City of Pasadena (1990) 51 Cal.3d 564, 576.)          The declared purposes of the Act are stated in section 13959, which provides:
         "It is in the public interest to assist residents of the State of California in obtaining restitution for the pecuniary losses they suffer as a direct result of criminal acts. This article shall govern the procedure by which crime victims may obtain restitution through compensation from the Restitution Fund."
         The term "victim" for purposes of the Act is...

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