VICTIM IMPACT STATEMENT
Common Questions and Answers
WHAT IS MY RIGHT AS A VICTIM TO ADDRESS THE COURT AT SENTENCING?
When the defendant has been convicted of a crime, the victim and/or the victim’s representative (immediate family members, prosecutor, or victim advocate) have the right to address the Court at sentencing. This can be done in various ways. Everyone has their own personal style of presentation. You can choose from any of the options listed below. You may have an idea that is not listed below. You should discuss your thoughts with your victim advocate prior to presentation.
HOW DO I ADDRESS THE COURT? You can do any of the following:
- Write a letter to the judge. This letter will be placed in the Court’s file as a permanent public record.
A copy of this letter will be presented to the defendant through his/her attorney. Address your letter to the sentencing justice, (for example, Dear Your Honor). Start by identifying yourself in the letter. You can express to the Court the impact that the crime has had on you and your family (financial, social, psychological, emotional, and physical). Express your feelings about an appropriate sentence, e.g. jail time, probation, fine, probation conditions, counseling, etc. You can include pictures that might help describe the impact of the crime on you. Give your letter to the Victim Advocate for filing with the Court. Keep a copy of the letter for yourself.
2. Speak personally at the sentencing hearing. (If you are to speak personally, this can be done in a number of ways.)
a. You can speak directly to the Court without any prepared notes. It is recommended that if you choose to speak at the
hearing that you prepare something beforehand. It is OK to speak from your mind and heart, however, often people “draw a
blank” under the stress in the courtroom and forget things that they wanted to say.
b. You can write something to read at the sentencing hearing.
c. How can make an outline and speak from the outline.
d. You can read the letter that was copied and placed in the Court’s file. (This option is certainly acceptable; however, it’s good to know that if the letter has been placed in the Court’s file, the judge will have already read the letter. To read the letter at the hearing will repeat information the judge has already read.)
I’M NOT SURE IF I WANT TO GO TO THE SENTENCING AND I’M NOT SURE IF I WANT MY FEELINGS KNOWN TO THE COURT. WHAT SHOULD I DO?
You are not required to do anything. You can make your own personal choice. You do not have to attend the sentencing, however, you have the right to be there if you like. If you choose to attend the hearing you may speak or just sit and observe the proceedings without making any statement at all. You can also attend the hearings and have the prosecutor or victim advocate address the Court for you. You can choose not to attend the hearing and not have any input at sentencing. You can choose any one of the participation options described above. Everyone is different. Do what feels best for you. Victim Impact Statements are very personal to each victim of a crime. Your feelings are not right or wrong; they are unique to you. Often victims worry about how they will be “judged” or “perceived” for expressing their feelings. This is your time to speak about how this crime affected you. It is important that you can be free to openly express your feelings.
WORKSHEET FOR DRAFTING A CRIME VICTIM IMPACT STATEMENT
Use this form to begin drafting your victim statement. You can copy the statement on another sheet of paper or use this form for reference when you speak.
- Begin your statement by addressing the Court as Dear Your Honor or Your Honor.
- Identify yourself.
- If you’d like, thank the Court for providing the opportunity for you to speak.
- Begin by addressing the impact that the crime has had on you. Use the space below to organize your thoughts.
I. Affect that the crime has had on you and your family.
1. Physical Emotion
II. What would you like to see happen at the sentencing hearing? Do you feel that the plea negotiation is appropriate? How do you feel about……………………..
Jail Time? How much? (Try to be as specific as you can. Even an estimate gives the Court an idea of what feels appropriate to you. Phrases like “getting away with it” or a slap on the wrist” don’t mean anything unless you say what that means to you).
Condition of Probation: no possession or use of alcohol or drugs, substance abuse evaluation and follow up counseling, Violence no More (Domestic violence counseling), psychological counseling, no possession or use of firearms, random searching for possession or use of alcohol or drug, no contact with expenses, property damage/property stole, medical expense, etc…….