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Home >Legal/Professional >Preparing a Victim Impact Statement
Preparing a Victim Impact Statement
The following are guidelines for preparing a victim impact statement, broken down into two sections. The first section provides guidelines for statements to be given at the sentencing of criminal defendants. The second includes additional suggestions for statements to be given to a parole board at the time that a prisoner is being considered for parole.
General Guidelines for Impact Statements:
- There are no "rules" as to the format. If being delivered in writing, it's generally done in the form of the letter (many jurisdictions may provide a generic form for your use, but some do not). If a statement is just being delivered orally in court, some individuals will speak from the heart without notes; some will prepare an outline. Many do both written and oral statements; this is the best way to impress upon the court the extent of your concern. However, there are judges who will only allow one or the other. Find out from your prosecutor or victim advocate what to expect in your case.
- Describe the ways the crime has impacted your life as well as the lives of your loved ones. Explain the psychological, emotional, or physical harm or trauma your have suffered. Explain the extent of any economic loss or property damage which resulted from the crime.
- Give your opinion as to an appropriate sentence, including your wishes regarding the defendant being ordered to pay restitution (restitution is a court order which directs defendants to pay victims back for any financial loss as a result of the crime - it generally does not compensate for pain and suffering). Be realistic - ask for a sentence which can be imposed in your jurisdiction; your statement will be more meaningful. The prosecutor or victim advocate working with you should be able to guide you in this respect. Finally, you may ask that your written statement be attached to the pre-sentence investigation report. This is important because the report is not just used for sentencing purposes, but follows the defendant into the prison system for use in determining classifications. It may also be utilized by the parole board in making decisions.
- Although there's usually no time limit imposed, it is a good idea to keep your statement short. Five minutes or less is a recommended time frame when delivering a statement in court. If being submitted in writing, keeping it to one page is also advised. Even the most compelling statement may lack impact if it's too long.
- Here are a few things to keep in mind. Many judges are strict about courtroom decorum; they will expect you to conduct yourself in a dignified manner and may be put off by extreme anger or vengeful comments. Even though they should understand why you would feel that way, they may not be accepting of such emotions. Also, many judges take the position that an impact statement must be addressed to the court, not the defendant (this makes sense since impact statements are intended to help the court in fashioning a sentence). It is usually permissible to make some comments to the defendant as long as most of the statement is being directed to the court. The bottom line - choosing to address the defendant instead of the court could result in you being interrupted to being told to stop without finishing your statement.
Statements to Parole Boards:
- These statements should also include an explanation as to the impact the prisoner's crime had on you and your loved ones, and can be delivered orally and/or in writing.
- The primary thrust of your statement to a parole board should be your opinion about the prisoner's eligibility for parole. Obviously, the vast majority of victims want prisoners to be locked up for as long as possible. However, there are rare instances when an individual may not object to a prisoner's parole, but wishes to ask the board to impose conditions on the parole. Within reason, such requests are usually granted. Additionally, some jurisdictions allow prosecutors' offices to oppose or appeal prisoners' paroles, so you should check to see if this could be done.
- The format and time frames discussed under SECTION I apply here as well.
- Please keep in mind that these are general guidelines and should not be considered to be the last word on the subject. Many jurisdictions do things differently. It's always a good idea to check with your prosecutor's office; specifically the victims' rights staff, for suggestions and recommendations in preparing impact statements.
The family of Chris Pervorse has been gravely traumatized both emotionally and physically, by this senseless act of violence. A permanent picture in our minds and hearts of the last moments of our son, brother and friend will never leave us/We will always wonder why Mr. Bell felt compelled to commit this crime. We have spells of uncontrollable crying, one of us has permanent shaking, we all have nightmares. Some so totally consumed with grief, they cannot face normal everyday activities with the ease and gaiety of times past. We speak to Chris daily, although one family member stays in complete denial of the truth and will not face or speak off it. It makes us live in a permanent fear for our own lives and families. Paranoia is an everyday reality. We have leaned too much about the workings of our legal system whether we were prepared to do so or not. The time goes very slowly as we wait for news and we cry once more. It is beyond our comprehension how a person could do this to another human being. Yet we must live in this hideous aftermath that has sentenced us for life. Time will not heal these wounds but perhaps ease the pain. Chris was a good person who loved God, life, his family and his music. We will never forget the James Bells of this world and the enormous suffering they cause. A lifetime in prison can only close one page in our book of life. He is a psychopath who should never be allowed out as he has no regard for human life.
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