Victim Impact Statement Law and Legal Definition

A victim impact statement is a written or oral statement given to the sentencing judge by the victim. Such statements may include the impact of the crime on the victim, how the crime affected the victim on psychological, financial, and physical levels. Such statement gives the victim of crime an opportunity to speak during the sentencing of their attacker or at subsequent parole hearings. In some cases, videotaped victim impact statements are permitted.

In 1991, in the case of Payne v. Tennessee (501 U.S. 808 (1991)), the U.S. Supreme Court held that a victim impact statement in the form of testimony was allowed during the sentencing phase of a trial. The court stated that the admission of such statements did not violate the U.S. Constitution. It also ruled that such statements were admissible in death penalty cases.

Laws relating to victim impact statements vary from state to state. Most states allow such statements to be made during the sentencing phase of the trial. States such as Indiana and Texas allow the statements to be made after sentencing phase also.