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Dec 18, 2013

Victim Impact at Sentencing

When you’ve been convicted in Maine of a crime where a victim was involved, that victim has a right to speak at your sentencing hearing. Oftentimes, victims don’t testify as the impact of the crime was so emotionally damaging that they can’t bear to come into court. However, when the victim makes the effort to make a statement, you can bet the judge is going to listen.

Oftentimes, victim impact statements are emotionally charged when one of three types of crimes were committed:

1.Murder or manslaughter

2.Gross Sexual Assault (rape)

3.White collar crimes such as embezzlement

Occasionally, a victim statement will have such an impact on the judge that he/she will refuse to accept the agreed to plea bargain. The judge can consider the victim’s input when fashioning a sentence and in particularly emotionally charged cases, can come down heavy against the defendant.

As the judge has a large degree of independence and latitude in sentencing, it is often necessary to bring mitigating factors to the judge’s attention. These factors include but are not limited to the client’s home life; obstacles that stood in the way of emotional and intellectual development; substance abuse issues that explain to some degree, the client’s behavior; psychological issues; and finally, support from family, friends and members of the community. When the prosecutor and/or the victim is explaining what a monster the client is, it’s important to paint a different picture for the judge and show him/her that the person pending sentencing isn’t a monster and is instead, a sympathetic yet highly flawed human being.

Because of the real possibility of a victim impact statement adding months or years onto a sentence, it is important to be prepared for sentencing and to forcefully argue mitigating factors that hopefully, balance out the victim impact statement.



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