Criminal Attorneys Aren't Just for Criminals

Can a Victim Impact Statement Make a Difference in Your Criminal Case?

by Eva Holmes

A victim impact statement is a written or verbal statement made by the victim of a crime, typically during the sentencing process. Sometimes these statements serve a crucial role in a criminal proceeding, and, other times, they don't serve a purpose at all, as far as the case goes. Here's what you need to know about victim impact statements.

What the Impact Statement Accomplishes for the Victim

The victim impact statement is very personal. It can serve as a way to humanize the victim. For example, the victim, or alleged victim, of a crime is typically nothing more than a name on paper. There's documentation of an alleged crime and whatever evidence exists for that crime.

An impact statement brings that crime to life and shows the victim is a human being, not just a case. This statement can sometimes sway a judge or jury, but it's rare that it does.

How the Judge Views a Victim Impact Statement

The main issue with a victim impact statement is that it doesn't change the facts of the case. The judge already knows the crime. Adding a statement doesn't increase or reduce the severity of the crime. Therefore, it's rare that a victim impact statement will alter the sentence from the judge.

Are Victim Impact Statements Pointless?

It's true the judge must hold a certain level of objectivity, even as someone pours all their emotion out in a heartfelt statement. This doesn't mean victim impact statements are pointless. These statements can make a difference. It's just not a given that they will, and it's rare they affect sentencing. However, it can happen.

When Do Victim Impact Statements Count?

For the victim of a crime, an impact statement can

  • offer closure,
  • help them deal with victimization,
  • and be therapeutic.

In addition, a victim impact statement can come up during deliberations. Occasionally, the statement can bring to light new information about a case. It's in these instances when an impact statement can make the biggest difference in the case itself.

If You Stand Accused of a Criminal Offense

Don't worry that an impact statement will make a giant change in your case. In fact, if you work with your criminal lawyer, the victim impact statement can actually work in your favor. You can, and should, dispute anything in the statement that's blatantly inaccurate.

For more information about victim impact statements and how they might affect your case, check out and talk to a criminal defense attorney.