Your Full Guide to Victim Impact Statements

Need to write a victim impact statement, but do not know where to begin? Please check out our guide on how to write a compelling statement for any sentencing or parole hearing. Wondering what a victim impact statement is? Well, you have come to the right place. Today, we are going to talk about everything and anything that has to do with victim impact statements.

First and foremost, a victim impact statement can either be verbal or a written statement that is just one part of the judicial legal process. This will allow the victims of these crimes the chance to speak up during the sentencing phase of the trial for the perpetrator or at parole hearings as well.

Overview

One of the main purposes of a victim impact statement is to give the people who were directly affected by the crime at hand a chance to address the court during the sentencing phase of the trial.

This victim impact statement is a way for the people who were affected to bring a little bit of personality to this situation, which can give the victim a voice (if they were deceased) and give the courtroom a feel that this crime is not just another statistic, but it really impacted families, friends, and the community.

For many victims of these terrible crimes, a victim impact statement is a way to help them start their emotional recovery from this whole situation. Many therapists will suggest victims write out an impact statement whether it is for the sentencing phase of the trial or if the inmate is going to be going through the parole board hearing.

In short, a victim impact statement will help the victims confront the person who committed the crime with the facts and allow them to tell the person how what they did affect them, but also promote emotional rehabilitation for those affected as well.

Another great purpose of a victim impact statement is also to let the court know of the harm that you endured as the victim of the crime at hand. However, if applicable the court can and will take what your victim impact statement says into consideration when they are deciding what sentence to give the offender during that phase of the trial.

In most cases when a crime will result in death, the immediate and extended family members of the victims will have the right to speak at the sentencing hearings.

Even in most jurisdictions, there will be a variety of rules on how these victim impact statements from these family members will be held. This is since victim impact statements are typically seen as unprincipled for a few punishments including death. The death penalty is not given out based on victim impact statements, there is strict guidelines on how the death penalty can be given out.

Not to mention, there are victims that were murdered and they have no immediate family members to write a victim impact statement for them, so there is no one to talk to the courtroom about how this person is missed and how it impacted their life as well.

You should not in the case of a death, there are some jurisdictions that state that getting the victim impact statements from immediate or extended family members is not relevant to the sentencing of the person charged for the crime. How it is not important to the process of sentencing the person for the crime that they have committed.

While in other jurisdictions the victim impact statements are a vital part of the process, but the statement cannot and will not ever differentiate the punishment for the cause of death.

Let’s put this in general terms, let’s say a person is currently making a victim impact statement and can discuss their direct trauma or harm that they had to endure as a result of the person committing such a crime. Let’s also go as far as stating the trauma they underwent also cost them their income.

Some jurisdictions will allow you to attach psychiatric and medical records to your victim impact statements to better paint the picture of the trauma you underwent.

While these same jurisdictions will allow you to further discuss the how the impact of the crime at hand also had a negative effect on your plans and/or ambitions for the future, and how it also directly impacted your immediate or extended family.

There are even a few jurisdictions that will allow you to make statements that directly express what you think is an appropriate punishment and/or sentence for the person who is on trial.

Now, you should be aware that there are some jurisdictions that will forbid you from suggesting or even remotely proposing any sentencing or punishment ideas. The reason behind this is since the sentencing act is solely done by the judge who is presiding over the case on hand. The judge does not only consider the harm of the victims, but there are many other factors that go along within the sentencing decision. This is why these jurisdictions do not allow you to suggest or even proposing what you may think is proper punishment for said criminal, so you do not get your hopes up for what you suggested and the judge comes back with something lighter that you do not see fit.

However, in most civil cases, a victim impact statement can be used to help the judge to determine how much you, the plaintiff will receive.

Victim Impact Statements Within the United States

In 1976, was the first time in all the United States history that a victim impact statement was used. The very first victim impact statement was used in Fresno, California. It was then passed into law in 1982, in the state of California thanks to the Manson case.

It was put into law due to Doris Tate’s concern that any of the Manson family members that were a part of the murder of her daughter, Sharon back in 1969 could get out of prison on parole.

That very same year in 1982, when California passed it into the law, the Final Report of the President’s Task Force on Victims of Crime would recommend that the judges should allow and give proper consideration when deciding on what to give the offender for his or her sentence.

Then a decade later in 1992, the United States Attorney General would release another 24 recommendations that will help improve the criminal justice system treatment of the victims of crime.

The Attorney General would also endorse that they use the victim impact statements and that judges should provide a hearing to allow them to further consider things from the victim’s point of view during the sentencing phase of the trial.

In 1991, the United States Supreme Court would hold a victim impact statement in the form of a verbal statement, which would first be allowed in the Payne v. Tennessee trial.

It was finally officially ruled that verbal statements were not in direct violation of the Constitution and that these statements can be admissible in all capital murder cases.

Then in 1997, nearly 44 of the states in the United States would allow the victim impact statements during the sentencing phase of the trial, even though it was not until 1991 when these such statements would be inadmissible in many of the cases where the prosecutors were going for the death penalty.

There are many laws in all the states, but most states will allow you to make a statement during the sentencing phase. But Texas and Indiana will also permit a statement even after sentencing.

How to Properly Write Your Victim Impact Statement

As we have previously mentioned a victim impact statement can either be verbal or a written statement from the victims of the crime. In the victim’s own words, they can describe how the crime has truly affected them.

You should not that all 50 states in the United States will allow you to write a victim impact statement at some point during the sentencing phase of the process.

However, many states within the United States will allow these victim impact statements during the parole hearings as well. Most of the time, the victim impact information is given to the judge during the pre-sentencing report, in which the parole board will also have a copy of.

Purpose of the Victim Impact Statement

Before you can successfully write a victim impact statement, you will need to know the ultimate purpose. The ultimate purpose to talk to the courtroom and the judge about the impact that crime had on you. What trauma you went through, what happened to you after the crime, and how you are managing now.

The judge presiding over the case can use this information within this victim impact statement to better sentence the offender. While the parole board can use this information to decide if they will give the offender parole or not and if they decide to give the offender parole, what conditions they will have on the offender.

There are a handful of states that will use the victim impact statements to be introduced during the plea bargain hearings, bail, and pretrial release.

Your victim impact statement can provide information about the damages and trauma that you had to endure as a victim. This information in your victim impact statement will be new news to the court and the parole board hearing. This information is information that was not displayed during the trial phase as it did not pertain to the offender of the crime, but it pertained to the aftermath of said crime.

In most cases, victims will not be permitted to testify in court. However, there will be a few times that a victim will be permitted to testify, but they must answer specific questions and cannot go off-topic.

So, in a way, the victim impact statement is the only way for the victims to truly tell everyone in the courtroom on how they feel, what they went through, what trauma they have endured, if they lose out on money, or anything else that pertained to the crime at hand.

There are many victims who write their victim impact statement as a part of their rehabilitation process. This can allow the victim in a safe environment to confront their offenders who have done them wrong. Many of the victims have reported after they have made their impact statement that they have felt better and were able to fully put that bad chapter in their life behind them.

What Should Your Victim Impact Statement Include?

Your victim impact statement should include a brief description of the following items:

  • Physical Damage associated with the
  • Emotional damage associated with the crime
  • Financial costs associated with the crime
  • Psychological and/or medical treatments required because of the crime at hand.
  • Any need ore restitution because of the crime at hand
  • Your views on the crime and/or the offender charged with the crime
  • Your views on a suggested sentence you see fit for the crime at hand.

Other Important Information on Victim Impact Statements

Majority of the states in the United States will allow you to either verbal or write down your victim impact statement.

There will even be a handful of states that will allow the victims to record their statements on either audiotapes or videotapes, so they can also use these victim impact statements later down the line for parole hearing as well.

Then in some states, if the victim is a child, the child may submit drawings to tell the story of how the crime has affected their quality of life as well.

There will be states that will require either the parole boards or the judges to take into consideration of the victim impact statement while they are deciding on what sentence they will hand out to the offender. While other victims impact statements will make no sway on the parole board or the judges.

All defendants (the offenders) in the case will typically be allowed to challenge the facts that are presented within these victim impact statements as well.


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