Senate Passes Bill to End Criminals' Ability to Profit from Crime

May 10, 2011

The New York State Senate today passed legislation that protects the rights of victims by prohibiting criminals from profiting from crimes, regardless of their plea or conviction.  The bill (S.4393) sponsored by Senator John Flanagan (R-C-I, East Northport) closes a loophole in the original Son of Sam law which was designed to prevent the Son of Sam, David Berkowitz, from profiting from his crime.  

“The idea that anyone would profit from a crime is an affront to our system of justice and is something that every crime victim and their family should be protected from,” stated Senator Flanagan. “The original Son of Sam law is very effective in stopping criminals from unfairly profiting from their illegal actions but New York State can and must do better.  I urge the Assembly to join with the Senate to make sure that no criminal in our state benefits from the commission of a crime.”

“While many of us find it despicable that there is a market for stories and other ways criminals may be able to exploit their crimes for profit, unfortunately, a market does exist,” Senate Majority Leader Dean G. Skelos said. “This bill addresses an issue with the current law to ensure that criminals cannot evade the provisions put in place to protect crime victims and their families here in New York.”

The Son of Sam law was designed to prevent criminals from profiting from their crimes through the commercial exploitation of their stories.  Any money that could potentially be earned by a criminal resulting from the commission of a crime would first be used to compensate their victim and others who have the right to sue under the landmark law.

However, current law allows defendants who are found or take a plea of “not responsible by reason of mental disease or defect” to potentially profit from their crimes through commercial exploitation. The need to strengthen the Son of Sam law has become more evident with the recent growth of "murder memorabilia" which includes manufactured items representing criminals and their crimes.  This growing market includes items with the likeness of Charles Manson, John Wayne Gacy and cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer.

The bill has been sent to the Assembly.