Friday, November 23, 2007

Introducing Indiana's Crime Victim's Statute

Indiana law provides a special remedy for victims of some crimes. This remedy is the Offenses Against Property statute. One can find the statute at IC 34-24-3. This article is a bit of a follow up to my post Trademarks: Hershey Sues in Indiana Over Parody.

As I wrote in that article, I find it difficult to explain what attraction the Crime Victim's Statute has for that case.

As for my list, I complied this for an article I never quite finished on this statute. Which means the chart might have a bit more interest to lawyers than to laypeople. The first column lists the crimes which can be used for a civil suit. The remaining columns show the kind of mental state is required to prove a case. Yes, one must show the defendant acted with criminal intent required under the criminal statute.

As anyone can see, the crimes listed are not ones to truly attract a lot of civil llitigation. Some do not even have a very wide application in Indiana (like unlawful acts relating to caves) and others probably lack the prime requirement for a civil suit: a defendant with money.

My experience with the statute begins and ends with check deception, conversion and criminal mischief. The criminal mischief case involved a defendant splattering a very red paint throughout a very white kitchen. While another statute exists for check deception, this statute has fewer procedural requirements.

With conversion cases, this statute allows for attorney fees where common law conversion does not. The attorney fee provision also lead to the use of the statute with the criminal mischief case. Note that the statute requires payment of reasonable attorney fees. However, the judge or jury decides what is reasonable. In my case, the judge cut off about a thousand dollars of fees without any explanation. I put it down to the vagaries of the judicial mind.

I think that we might see use of this statute as part of a qui tam action (welfare and Medicaid fraud), computer trespass and home improvement fraud. Remember, I already mentioned the need for a defendant with money and I presume any use of this statute requires a fund for a damages award. (For those wondering why I emphasize a defendant with money , a suit for damages means a suit for money). I think anyone will see that the statute's protections are far more limited than one might suppose from its title.

I am sure that I have not provided anyone with a clue about why Hershey chose Indiana and this statute.