The Kentucky Crime Victim Bill of Rights – KRS 421.500 to 421.575 – provides crime victims with specific rights. Included in those rights is the right to submit a victim impact statement after conviction but prior to or at sentencing and to the parole board when the defendant becomes eligible for parole.
What is a Victim Impact Statement?
A victim impact statement (VIS) is a written statement from the victim which may contain, but need not be limited to, a description of the extent of the psychological, physical, and financial harm suffered by the victim, the victim’s need for restitution and whether the victim has applied for or received compensation for financial loss, and the victim’s recommendation for an appropriate sentence.
Who can submit a victim impact statement?
The victim of the crime has the right to submit the VIS. If the victim is a minor (under 18) or legally incapacitated due to a parent, guardian, custodian or court-appointed special advocate is considered the “victim” for purposes of submitting the VIS. If the victim is deceased, a parent, adult child, parent, sibling, or grandparent is considered the “victim” for purposes of submitting the VIS.
Is it mandatory to submit a victim impact statement?
No. Whether or not to submit a VIS is a voluntary and personal choice and is left to the discretion of the victim.
Making a VIS may, however, be helpful in having a higher sentence imposed at sentencing or parole being denied when the defendant goes before the parole board. The VIS allows you to present a perspective no one else can and aids the court or parole board in understanding the impact the crime has had on your life- emotionally, physically and financially. This information can then be considered by the court when determining an appropriate sentence to impose or the Parole Board when making its decision regarding parole.
How and when will my victim impact statement be used?
Victim Impact Statement at Sentencing
After a guilty plea or guilty verdict, and before sentencing, the victim should be notified by the prosecutor of the right to make a VIS. Although no specific form is required, a form may be helpful to you in deciding what information you want to provide and organizing the information. Often, a form will be provided by a victim advocate or the prosecutor. If you prefer to use a form and one is not provided, sample forms can be found in the sidebar of this page. The VIS will be given either to the probation officer assigned to the case to be included in the presentence investigation (PSI) report or to the court directly if the defendant waives the PSI. It is important for you to return the VIS to the victim advocate or prosecutor by the date requested so that it can be considered by the judge prior to sentencing.
Victim Impact Statement to the Parole Board
As the victim, you also have the right to submit a VIS to the Parole Board for consideration when the defendant becomes eligible for parole. While the VIS the victim provided at sentencing can be considered, the Parole Board prefers victims to submit a new VIS at this point. The Parole Board VIS form can be found here. If you keep the contact information provided to the Parole Board up-to-date, they will keep you notified of any Parole Board proceedings and how you may participate. You can update your contact information by contacting the Parole Board at (502) 564-3620.
Can I get assistance in preparing my victim impact statement?
Most Commonwealth’s Attorneys’ offices have a victim advocate who can, among other things, assist you in preparing a victim impact statement. A list of prosecutor-based advocates can be found on our Victim Advocate Map. In jurisdictions that do not have a Victim Advocate, other office staff may be able to assist you. You can also contact the Office of Victims Advocacy (OVA) within the Office of the Attorney General at (502) 696 5312 or (800) 372 2551. Advocates are available to assist you in locating a victim advocate in your area or alternatively can provide information and assistance.
For cases that are or soon will be before the Parole Board, the board has victim advocates who can provide information and answer your questions regarding victim impact statements and the parole process generally, including how you can participate. For more information see https://justice.ky.gov/Pages/Victim-Services.aspx or call (800) 221 5991.
Can I read my statement aloud in court?
The right to submit a VIS at sentencing is specifically limited to submission of a written statement. However, judges may, and often do, permit the victim to give an oral statement at sentencing.
While not technically a victim impact statement, KRS 532.055 allows some victim impact evidence/testimony to be admitted during the penalty phase of the trial. While this is not a right and the evidence to be introduced is within the discretion of the prosecutor, it may be an opportunity for a victim to make an oral statement. In you are interested in giving such testimony you should ask the prosecutor if this might be an option for you.
At the Parole Board
At Parole Board proceedings, the KRS 421.530 right to submit a VIS is limited to a written victim impact statement. KRS 439.340 does, however, allow victims to submit oral or written “comments” at the hearing, as to all issues relating to the parole of a prisoner, if prior notice is given to the Board. For more information see the Parole Board's Frequently Asked Questions.
How can the Office of Victims Advocacy assist me?
The Office of Victims Advocacy within the Office of the Attorney General has victim advocates on staff who can answer general questions about victim impact statements, the criminal justice process, crime victim rights, etc. and provide referrals to victim resources and services in the caller’s local area. Our advocates also provide notification of court proceedings, accompaniment to court proceedings and attorney interviews, assistance filing for victim compensation and restitution, referrals to community resources, guidance with victim impact statements, etc. in cases prosecuted by the Office of the Attorney General. Our crime victim information line is (502) 696-5312. More information about the services and assistance provided by the Office of Victims Advocacy is available in our brochure.