Under Louisiana law, crime victims or their designated family members are permitted to inform the court of the effects a crime has had upon them. Such Victim Impact Statements generally are heard by the judge after a defendant’s conviction and before the defendant is sentenced.
If the victim or designated family member has made such a request through an OPDA prosecutor or the court, and is present, the court shall determine if the affected person(s) wishes to make a sworn Victim Impact Statement from the witness stand. If the victim is not present, the court shall ascertain whether the victim or designated family member has requested notification and, if so, whether proper notice has been issued to the victim or designated family member, by the clerk of court or district attorney’s office. If notice has been requested and proper notice has not been issued, the court shall continue the proceedings until proper notice is issued.
The victim and/or family members shall have the right to make a written and oral victim impact statement as follows:
- Any written statement shall be made available to the state and the defendant and shall be made part of the record. The statement may be submitted by the district attorney upon request of the victim or designated family member. Upon request of the victim or designated family member, any such written statement may be sealed by the court after review by the parties.
- The hearing at which an oral statement is provided to the court shall be subject to the limitations of relevance. In any case where the number of victim’s family members exceeds three, the court may limit the in-court statements it receives from them to a fewer number of statements. The court may otherwise reasonably restrict the oral statement in order to maintain courtroom decorum.
- The defendant must be present for the victim impact statement.
- Upon motion of the state, the court may hear any such statement in camera (i.e., privately rather than in open court).
- The impact statement may identify the victim of the offense, itemize any economic loss that has been or may be reasonably suffered by the victim as a result of the offense, identify any physical injury suffered by the victim as a result of the offense, describe any change in the victim’s personal welfare or familial relationships as a result of the offense, identify any request for medical or counseling services needed by the victim or the victim’s family as a result of the offense, contain any other information related to the impact of the offense upon the victim or the victim’s family that the trial court requires, and contain any other information that the victim or victim’s family wishes to share with the court regarding the overall effect of the crime upon the victim and the victim’s family.
- Prior to the sentencing hearing, the court shall provide the counsel for the defendant, the victim, and the attorney for the state with notice of the maximum and minimum sentence allowed by law. The court shall allow the victim or designated family member and the prosecutor the opportunity to review any pre-sentence investigation reports that have been prepared relating to the victim’s case. The review of the pre-sentence report shall be conducted under the supervision of the court.
- At the sentencing hearing, the court shall afford the counsel for the defendant, the attorney for the state, and the victim or designated family member an opportunity to comment upon matters relating to the appropriate sentence.
- Before imposing sentence, the court shall verify that the victim or designated family member was notified of the sentencing hearing and address the victim or designated family member personally, if the victim or designated family member is present at the sentencing hearing, and to determine if the victim or designated family member wishes to present a written and/or oral impact statement under these guidelines.