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On November 4, 2008, the citizens of California approved Proposition 9, a measure that amended Article 1, Section 28(b) of the California Constitution. The measure, also known as the Victims’ Bill of Rights Act of 2008 or Marsy’s Law, preserves and protects the victims’ rights to justice and due process.
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A Victim Impact Statement is a written or oral statement presented to the court at the defendant’s sentencing. Victims or survivors have a legal right to inform the judge about how the crime has affected their lives and can ask that a defendant receive a particular sentence.
How to Write a Victim Impact Statement
As you are preparing your impact statement, you may find that using the following questions can guide you:How did the crime affect you and your family?What was the emotional impact of the crime on you and your family?What was the financial impact on you and your family?Do you have any recommendations to the court about disposition (sentencing) of this case?Is there anything else you would like to tell the court?The above guidelines do not cover the totality of the impact of crime, but may be used as a starting point. Victim Impact statements are unique to you and people have various ways of expressing how crime has affected them.
What Happens to my Victim Impact Statement? Do I have to read it in court?
Preparing and presenting an impact statement in court can be intimidating. If you do not think you can physically stand in front of the offender and read your statement, another family member or friend, a victim advocate or the Deputy District Attorney can read your statement for you.
If you submit a letter, this will become part of the court file, the prosecutor’s file and the defense file. Victim Impact Statements can also be included in the offender’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation file.
Why Write a Victim Impact Statement?
It is not mandatory you write an impact statement. It is a right you have but not one that you have to participate in. There are several reasons why Victim Impact Statements are beneficial. The reasons stated below are just a few.The judge gets to hear your side of the story. This is usually the first time this occurs. Throughout the criminal justice process, the focus is on the offender. Hearing from those that are affected by the crime puts a face with an often forgotten victimYou have the opportunity to address the court, and the offender by way of the court, about how the crime has affected you. Many find this helpful in the journey of victimization. Letting those know how they harmed you can be beneficial for emotion well-being.
Before you get to court, don’t try to memorize what you are going to say. Instead, try to picture the scene, the objects there, the distances, and what happened. This will help you recall the details when you are asked about them. Bring any notes or documents about the case.
Testify to the facts as you know them. During the "direct examination," the deputy district attorney will ask you questions. When this questioning is completed, the defense attorney will test your memory of the facts. This is called "cross-examination."Don’t be afraid of cross-examination. Although it may seem like it, it is not a personal attack on you. It is an attempt to test your recollection to see how your memory of the facts compares with the memory of others. All the questions by both lawyers have only one purpose - to bring out the truth about what you know.
Listen carefully to the question being asked. Be sure that you understand the question before answering. If you don’t understand the question, ask that it be rephrased until you are able to understand what is being asked.
Think Before You Speak
Give the question as much thought as you need in order to give an accurate answer. If you did not state your answer correctly, make it right immediately.
Answer the Question
Don’t volunteer information which has not been asked for. If you are interrupted in the middle of your answer, you may ask the judge’s permission to finish.
If you don’t want to answer a question, don’t ask the judge whether it is an improper question. If it is an improper question, the prosecuting attorney will object. Stop instantly, however, when the judge interrupts you or when an attorney objects.
Tell the Truth
Honesty is the best policy. Even a so-called "minor fabrication" can completely discredit you as a witness and weaken the case. So, testify accurately about the facts. If you tell the truth, you will have nothing to fear on cross-examination.
Be sure to answer "yes" or "no" rather than by nodding. Avoid distracting mannerisms - like chewing gum or placing your hands in front of your mouth.
Stick to the Facts
The court is interested only in facts. Therefore don’t give your conclusions and opinions. Beware of questions about distance and time. If you estimate, make sure that everyone knows it is an estimate.
Don’t Guess or Speculate
If you don’t know the answer, say that you don’t know. On the other hand, give positive, definite answers when you remember. When you are certain about a fact or answer, don’t say, "I think" or "I believe."
Although you may be testifying in favor of a friend, don’t exaggerate your testimony or slant it in his or her favor.
Always be courteous, even if the attorney questioning you appears not to be. Being courteous is one of the best ways to make a good impression on the judge and the jury. Don’t be afraid to answer "Yes, sir" and "No, sir" and to address the judge as "Your Honor." Never argue or respond with "smart-aleck" remarks.
Don’t Lose Your Temper
If you lose your temper, you place yourself at the mercy of the cross-examiner. Courts are interested only in the facts of the case. Hold your temper, and your testimony will be much more valuable.
Look at the Jury
Don’t be afraid to look the jury in the eye and tell your story. Jurors are naturally sympathetic to the witness, and they want to hear what you have to say.
National Victim Notification Network
This service allows crime victims to obtain timely and reliable information about criminal cases and the custody status of offenders 24 hours a day. Some states have the ability to display this website in Spanish. Please click on the state where you wish to search. If this option is available, you will see an "English | Español" toggle in the upper right hand corner. Victims and other concerned citizens can also register to be notified by phone, email, text message (SMS) or TTY device when an offender’s custody status changes. Users can also register through their participating state or county toll-free number. California’s Megan’s Law
This site allows the public for the first time to use their personal computers to view information on sex offenders required to register with local law enforcement under California’s Megan’s Law.
The Doe Network
The Doe Network is a volunteer organization devoted to assisting Law Enforcement in solving cold cases concerning unexplained disappearance and unidentified victims from North America, Australia and Europe.
National Center for Missing & Exploited Children
The mission of the organization is to serve as the nation’s resource on the issues of missing and sexually exploited children. The organization provides information and resources to law enforcement, parents, children including child victims as well as other professionals. Mothers Against Drunk Driving
The madd.org website is a great resource to use for information and is updated daily. The mission of Mothers Against Drunk Driving is to stop drunk driving, support the victims of this violent crime and prevent underage drinking. For further information, please click on the above link or contact 909-633-3267.
If you are a victim of a violent crime, you may be eligible for reimbursement through California’s Victim Compensation Program for crime related expenses. You may qualify for assistance with mental health therapy, income loss, support loss, medical, funeral expenses and reimbursements of out-of-pocket losses through application to State Victim Compensation Program. For more information please visit California Victim Compensation Board or Contact the Colusa County Victim Witness Unit for more information.
How to Apply
Application - English
Application - Spanish
Victims requesting to be notified of a change to the custody status of the offender, please click here.
To locate on Inmate, please click here.
For all other information, please visit California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
Finding Case Information
Court files are public records and subject to public inspection. California Rules of Court, rule 2.400(a) states that all papers in the court files may be inspected by the public in the office of the clerk. Rule 2.550(a) says that unless confidential or sealed by law, all court records are presumed open. The District Attorney’s Office does not release copies of court files. Reporters wishing to obtain copies of a court file should go to the Clerk’s Office in person and request the file. The Superior Court Clerk’s Office will not fax or send electronic copies of court files.
The public may view and obtain copies of the following case types:
In most cases you can locate a court file via the court’s online case search or by going to the court location where the case was tried.
DV Brochure - English
DV Brochure - Spanish