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Restoration, Retribution, or Revenge? Time Shifting Victim Impact Statements in American Judicial Process

26 Pages Posted: 14 Aug 2013 Last revised: 10 Mar 2017

Tracy Hresko Pearl

Texas Tech University School of Law

Date Written: August 1, 2013


Courts currently permit victims to offer victim impact statement in criminal proceedings in all 50 states and federal jurisdictions. However, victim impact statements introduce serious constitutional problems into criminal cases by (1) creating inconsistencies in sentencing, (2) injecting bias and prejudice into formal courtroom proceedings, (3) giving judges and prosecutors an opportunity to reject testimony that might sway jurors toward more lenient punishments, and (4) leaving defendants with little opportunity to mitigate their impact on decision-makers. Scholars, therefore, have resoundingly called for the exclusion of victim impact statements from criminal proceedings in the United States. In this article, I take a decidedly different position and argue instead that victim impact statements are, in fact, salvageable. Specifically, I look to lessons from the restorative justice movement and propose a solution that relies on time shifting victim impact statements to the close of criminal proceedings. By removing victim impact statements from trials and sentencing and requiring that they be offered afterwards, their constitutional deficiencies can be virtually eliminated and their numerous benefits preserved.

Keywords: Victims' Rights Movement, victim impact statements, criminal proceedings, United States, history, benefits, exclusion, constitutional issues, restorative justice, sentencing, Victims' Rights and Restitution Act, Victims' Bill of Rights, retributive system, Fifth, Eight Amendment

Suggested Citation

Pearl, Tracy Hresko, Restoration, Retribution, or Revenge? Time Shifting Victim Impact Statements in American Judicial Process (August 1, 2013). 50 Crim. L. Bull. 781 (2014); Florida International University Legal Studies Research Paper No. 13-15. Available at SSRN:

Tracy Pearl (Contact Author)

Texas Tech University School of Law ( email )

1802 Hartford
Lubbock, TX 79409
United States
(806) 834-7055 (Phone)

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