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Victim Impact Statements

Victim impact statements describe victims' financial, physical, psychological, or emotional damages; harm to relationships; medical treatments or mental health services; the need for restitution; and, in some cases, victims' opinions of appropriate sentences.29 They are used in court to ensure that victims' voices are heard during the criminal justice process.

All 50 states allow some form of victim impact information at sentencing. In a few states, victim impact statements are allowed at bail, pre-trial release, and plea bargain hearings. According to a National Center for Victims of Crime survey, more than 80 percent of crime victims who have given such statements consider them a very important part of the process.30

Some states have strengthened victims' rights to make victim impact statements. In Oklahoma, for example, the governor signed legislation amending and expanding the law concerning victim impact statements (Senate Bill No. 665). The legislation protects victims' absolute right to make a victim impact statement and prohibits anyone other than the victim from amending or excluding the statement from the record. The law also prohibits the cross-examination of victims presenting oral impact statements when the cross-examination is not part of a proceeding before a judge or jury acting as a finder of fact.