Victim Impact Statement
The Victim Impact Statement (VIS) is a form that is distributed to the victim, guardian of a victim or close relative of a deceased victim of a violent crime. This form should be completed by you promptly and returned to the Crime Victims Office.
The VIS is a detailed account of the emotional, physical and financial effects the crime has had on the victim and family members. It has become an important tool in the criminal justice process and is used by district and county attorneys offices, judges and parole board members and probation officers. The story of the affect of the crime, told by the victim that experienced it, is a valuable resource that cannot be obtained from any other source. As dictated by Ch. 56, Article 56.02 Texas Code of Criminal Procedure and further explained in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Victim Services Division Crime Victim Clearinghouse publication Its Your Turn: A Victims and Survivors Handbook to Victim Impact Information, each agency has an obligation to ensure that the victims rights are upheld and that includes proper routing of the Victim Impact Statement.
Once the victim completes and returns the VIS to the Crime Victims Office, a copy is made for our files and the original is placed in a red envelope and forwarded to the appropriate prosecutors office. This document is confidential and is not an official court document until it is given to the court and is not considered part of discovery. The prosecutor may use information from the VIS to help present the case to a jury or judge. The information about expenses incurred as a result of the crime provide the prosecutor with a better idea about the amount of restitution to request as a part of the sentence.
When the defendant is sentenced for the offense, in either a trial setting or a plea bargain, the VIS is to be given to the court by the prosecutor. The judge, after a finding or adjudication of guilt, reviews the statement at sentencing. The court is to consider the VIS prior to imposing a sentence and is not to be considered by a jury. In case of a plea bargain, the judge must ask whether a VIS has been returned, and if so, must consider the statement before accepting the plea bargain. The VIS becomes a formal part of the court record and can be seen by the defendant and his/her attorney (the Victim Information Sheet, which can be detached from the actual VIS contains the victims address and phone number and is not to be shown to the defendant). Although the victim also has the right to provide victim impact information during a pre-sentence investigation report and have the right to elocution (link) after the sentencing, the VIS remains a crucial tool for criminal justice officials.
The VIS is then forwarded by the Court to either the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) for adult incarcerated offenders or to the Texas Youth Commission (TYC) for juvenile incarcerated offenders or to the community supervision department, where it is attached to the defendants commitment papers or routed to the defendants probation officer. The Parole Board/TYC considers the VIS when making release decisions.
At the sentencing of a defendant in a violent crime, as per Article 42.03 (1)(b) CCP, victims have a right to speak after the punishment of the defendant. The remarks must be limited to the victims views about the offense, the defendant and the effect of the offense on the victim and is called the elocution statement. Although the victim may address both the court and the defendant, the victim may not ask any questions of the defendant and the defendant is not permitted to respond during the elocution statement. The court reporter may not transcribe the victims statement, and the statement may not be made until after the sentence has been pronounced.