DOES A VICTIM OF A CRIME HAVE A SAY IN SENTENCING?
When a criminal defendant is convicted of a crime, they are subjected to sentencing by the criminal justice system as punishment for their crime. Traditionally, this meant that the judge or jury would determine the punishment of the crime without input from other individuals. However, does the criminal justice system allow victims of crimes to have a say in sentencing?
Historically, the victim of a crime has had much of a role of a criminal proceeding except for testifying in the trial. Largely, the focus of the trial rests on the defendant and their alleged actions or crimes. This is due to the fact that the defendant is the one facing a potential punishment or restriction of their liberties and/or rights. Because of this, some critics have argued that the criminal justice system places the rights of defendants ahead of the rights of the victims of the crime. However, since the earlier 1980s, many states have enacted legislation that grants rights to victims of crimes to be included in the criminal proceeding. These rights cover everything from notice of the trial to being allowed to contribute in the sentencing hearing after a conviction.
Victim’s Contributions to Sentencing
Generally, the most powerful right granted to the victim of a crime is being allowed to contribute their input into the sentencing process. This is because it allows the victim to make their voice heard and advocate for what they believe to be the appropriate punishment for the crime committed against them. To do this, a victim must submit a Victim Impact Statement to the court, prior to sentencing, which details their opinion of what the sentence should be. This statement can be presented orally, in written form, or electronically (in some jurisdictions). Additionally, if the victim is unable to present their opinion, like in a homicide, the victim’s family may be allowed to make their own statement.
Impact of Victim’s Opinion
Generally, most victims of a crime will advocate for harsh punishments for the defendant who committed the crime. However, this is not always the case. Regardless of the crime, whether it is murder or simple vandalism, some victims may find it in their heart to forgive a defendant for the harm which they have caused the victim. Even so, although a victim may contribute their opinion, the judge is not required to take into account the victim’s opinion of what an appropriate punishment would be.
If you have been charged with a crime, it is important to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney that can help zealously defend your case. Contact Us at Minick Law, P.C. for a free consultation on your case.