Crime victims can sometimes feel that they’re at the mercy of the justice system. If they have any say in the trial proceedings at all, it’s usually as witnesses and they can only answer the questions put to them. Preparing a victim impact statement offers victims an opportunity to express their feelings to the judge or the parole board when it comes to sentencing issues.
Tell the Court How Crime Affected Your Life
Victim impact statements don’t have to follow a prescribed legal format. You’re free to tell the court in your own words whatever you want the judge or parole panel to know. You might want to talk about how the crime affected you financially, such as because it caused you to lose your job or because you had to come out of pocket for medical bills or counseling fees. You can explain how your life is different now from how it was before the crime occurred, both for you and your family. The defendant has a right to dispute facts you present, but he can’t dispute your feelings.
Choose a Format That's Comfortable for You
Most states allow you to give your statement in person, but this might be uncomfortable for you if the defendant is present. If you’d rather not do this, contact the court’s victim advocacy service to see if you can submit a video or audio recording instead. Some courts might even let a friend or family member make the statement for you. You can also just submit a written statement to the court. The victim advocacy service can help you write it.
Beverly Bird is a practicing paralegal who has been writing professionally on legal subjects for over 30 years. She specializes in family law and estate law and has mediated family custody issues.