Victim impact letters afford an opportunity for victims' voices to be heard by the justice system. The objective is to describe all the ways in which a crime has affected you and your life. You can also make suggestions as to exactly how the offender can be held accountable for his actions. Crime victims describe emotional, physical and financial repercussions. For example, some victims experience anxiety regarding their security and personal safety and deal with major changes in their lifestyle.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Easy
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Address the letter by stating the judge's name -- to "The Honorable_". Put the name of the court next, and then the city, state and postcode. Write "RE: People vs. _ " and cite your case number. Begin the letter with "Your Honor". The first paragraph should outline your name and how you are connected to the crime. You might be the victim of a crime or you may be writing the letter on behalf of a family member or friend who was the victim of a crime.
Cite the date of the crime. Describe the incident. Be sure to name the victim and the defendant's full names. If your area provides mediation or dialogue programs, mention if you would be interested in participating in the program or on a victim impact panel. When community service is part of the offender's sentence, you can name a charitable organisation where you would like her to serve her hours.
Write about all the ways this crime affected you or the victim, family members, friends and the community. The effects could be financial, emotional, physical, social or a combination. Describe the impact in detail. For example, if the crime affected you psychologically, explain specific ways. When you are describing financial impact, tell the judge about any incurred expenses, such as medical and hospital bills, loss of income and funeral expenses. Mention how physical injuries impacted you, such as not being able to do the same job or how your mobility is affected, whether you are able to live on your own and incurred pain and suffering.
Tell the judge how the crime or incident affected your future. Explain what is different for you. This could involve how physical or psychological injuries continue to impact you. Describe how your life will be without a loved one. Mention how employment may be different or limited and how financial limitations may impact your future.
Consult with your legal advocate for a range of penalties for this particular criminal act. A judge can only impose a sentence that is in accordance with the laws of each state. Omit technical evidence. Request restitution if you would like compensation for pain and suffering you experienced. Explain that the person who committed the crime is responsible for what you have gone through since the incident and that he must be held accountable for their actions. Friends and family members may write to the judge during the sentencing phase.
Tips and warnings
- Your victim impact letter becomes an official court document after it is received by the court and is a permanent addition to the defendant's criminal file. Your statement can be read by the prosecutor, the judge, the defendant, the defendant's attorney and the offender's probation officer. Prison and parole officials may read your letter in the future in the event that the defendant is sentenced to a prison term.
- Do not include your address and phone number on the victim impact statement, because the offender will be able to read it.
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