victim impact statement | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee


Course: Introduction / Corrections

victim impact statement is a statement made by the victim of a crime and given to the judge responsible for sentencing the perpetrator.

A victim impact statement is a powerful tool in the criminal justice system that allows victims of crime to express their experiences and the impact the crime has had on their lives. It is a written or spoken statement made by the victim, or in some cases, a family member of the victim, and is given to the judge responsible for sentencing the perpetrator. The statement is typically made during the sentencing phase of a criminal trial, although it may also be given at other times during the legal process.

The purpose of a victim impact statement is to give the victim a voice in the proceedings and to ensure that the impact of the crime is fully considered when determining the appropriate sentence for the perpetrator. The statement can cover a wide range of topics, including the emotional, physical, and financial impact of the crime on the victim and their family. It can also include a description of any ongoing psychological effects of the crime, such as anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The victim impact statement can also provide important information about the victim’s personal circumstances, such as their occupation, educational background, and family situation. This information can help the judge to understand the full scope of the impact of the crime on the victim and to determine an appropriate sentence that takes into account the victim’s individual circumstances.

In addition to providing important information to the judge, the victim impact statement can also be a cathartic experience for the victim. It allows them to express their feelings and to have their voice heard in a system that can often feel impersonal and intimidating. It can also provide a sense of closure and help the victim to move forward with their life.

It is important to note that the victim impact statement is not intended to be a statement of the victim’s desired sentence for the perpetrator. Rather, it is a statement that provides information about the impact of the crime on the victim and their family. The judge will consider this information along with other factors, such as the severity of the crime and the criminal history of the perpetrator when determining the appropriate sentence.

Victim impact statements are becoming increasingly common in criminal trials around the world. They have been embraced as an important tool in promoting restorative justice and ensuring that the voices of victims are heard in the legal system. While they are not a panacea for the challenges facing victims of crime, they do provide an important opportunity for victims to express their experiences and to have their voices heard.

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Last Modified: 04/20/2023

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