Tools to Create Victim Impact Statements
Sentencing hearings are public, and the court must give any victim who is present the right to be heard. Victims are allowed to participate in the sentencing process regardless of whether or not the case went to trial, and whether or not they testified during the trial. In federal cases and most states, victims are allowed to address the court verbally or through written form. Usually, victims have the right to submit a written impact statement to discuss how and why their trafficker affected their lives. This statement is usually submitted to the prosecutor or county probation officer to be presented to the court at sentencing. The victim’s impact statement will be considered alongside information about the offender that the judge reviews (such as the offender’s past criminal history) and may have a significant impact on how the judge decides to sentence the offender. A trafficking victim may want to consider submitting the restitution calculation to the prosecutor at the same time as the victim impact statement to include in the pre-sentencing report. While this information is not admissible during trial for a criminal case, this information may be admissible in a subsequent civil case that the victim may bring against their trafficker.
Most sentences for crimes have time ranges and conditions, and the victim impact statement can affect whether the offender receives the permissible minimums or maximums within that range. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) outlines sentencing terms as well as provisions for asset forfeiture. For information on sentencing and forfeiture guidelines in different states, check VictimLaw.
For additional information and tools, visit the Resource page for Section 5.6, Case Proceedings.