Victims are given the opportunity, pursuant to Section 19.2-299.1, to prepare a written victim impact statement prior to sentencing of a defendant and may provide information to any individual or agency charged with investigating the social history of a person or preparing a victim impact statement under the provisions of Subsection 16.1-273 and 53.1-155 or any other law. (Crime Victim and Witnesses Rights 19.2-11.01)
The victim impact statement may be considered by the court in determining the appropriate sentence. A copy of the statement prepared pursuant to this section will be made available to the defendant or counsel for the defendant at least five days prior to the sentencing hearing. The statement is not admissible in any civil proceeding for damages arising out of the acts upon which the conviction is based. The statement, however, may be utilized by the Virginia Worker's Compensation Commission in its determinations on claims by victims of crimes pursuant to Chapter 21.1 (Section 19.2-368.1 et seq.) of this title.
A victim impact statement will be kept confidential and be sealed upon entry of the sentencing order. If prepared by someone other than the victim, it must:
- Identify the victim
- Itemize any economic loss suffered by the victim as a result of the offense
- Identify the nature and extent of any physical or psychological injury suffered by the victim as a result of the offense
- Detail any change in the victim's personal welfare, lifestyle or familial relationships as a result of the offense
- Identify any request for psychological or medical services initiated by the victim's family as a result of the offense
- Provide other such information as the court may require related to the impact of the offense on the victim.
Helpful Hints for Completing Victim Impact Statements
The victim impact statement allows victims of crime to tell the court and offender how the crime has affected their lives. The court is interested in knowing of any significant physical, psychological, or economic injury that may have been caused by the crime.
This document allows you to itemize economic losses; identify the nature and extent of physical and psychological injury; describe any changes in your personal welfare, lifestyle or family relationships; and identify any medical or mental health services you may have needed as a result of the offense. In other words, this is your chance to tell the court what your life has been like since the crime.
The section on economic loss and physical injuries is self-explanatory. Do not forget to add any expenses you may have incurred due to adding security measures to your home, e.g. new locks, etc.
Most people have questions about the psychological effects of the crime. The following are some suggestions on how to approach this issue:
- Your life is most likely different today than it was prior to the offense. Some typical responses include changes in routines, changes in employment, or relocation. Relationships not only change, but sometimes end as a result of crime.
- Have you suffered any anxiety as a result of the crime? Sometimes people have nightmares, inability to sleep, headaches, eat too much or too little, or develop fears that cause them to change routines. Are you now in counseling because of the offense?
- How has this affected your family and loved ones? Is anything out of the ordinary happening with those relationships?
To be as powerful as possible, your impact statement should avoid unsuitable language or information. Your impact statement should only contain how the crime has impacted you. This is the only information that is allowable by the Code of Virginia.
Another issue that needs to be handled with care is anger. It is normal that you may feel angry about the crime and the offender who caused the changes you may have taken. It is okay to state that you feel very angry about what has happened, however, this is not the forum to vent that anger. Please do not use profanity or name-calling.
Many victims have strong feelings about the appropriate sentence. The only person to make this decision is the judge and while it is appropriate to ask for a lenient or severe sentence, remember that the judge is bound by the Code of Virginia and must follow the law.
If you would like a Victim Impact Statement form sent to you, desire assistance completing a victim impact statement, or have questions regarding victim impact statements, please call the Victim-Witness Program at (757) 385-8301.