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No one is required to make a VIS, even though they are very useful.
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Crime affects everyone in a different way. Additionally, many people have varying desires for punishment for the defendant. A VIS is your chance to tell the judge in your case how the crime has affected you and what you think should happen to the defendant.
The most common way to make a VIS is to write a letter to the judge. You do not need to know the judge's name. You can simply address your letter Honorable Judge. Your letter should be typed if possible but it can be handwritten if it is easy to read.
Another common method is to be present at sentencing and to make a verbal statement addressing the judge. In this case, you simply need to be present at sentencing. When the case is called, the judge will ask at some point whether there is someone who wants to speak on behalf of the victim. This is when you will speak. You will not be placed under oath, but naturally, you are expected to tell the truth. Normally you will stand near the table where the prosecutor is standing. The Victim/Witness Coordinator can attend the sentencing hearing with you and stand next to you when you speak if requested.
There are other options as well. Some people choose to bring pictures of a victim who is not able to be present for one reason or another. You can also make a video or audiotape or even a PowerPoint presentation. If you choose to do this, be sure to let the Victim/Witness Unit know so the courtroom can be set up properly.
There are many things to consider when making a VIS. Here are a few questions you might want to ask yourself:
If you do not want to make a VIS yourself, you can have someone else speak on your behalf. This also means that parents can speak on behalf of their children if the children are victims and that a family member or friend can speak on behalf of a deceased victim. The Victim/Witness Coordinator or a Victim Advocate can also read a statement you have written to the court, although it is much more powerful if it comes directly from the victim.
If the offender is sentenced to prison and in some other cases, your VIS will be sent to the Department of Corrections and reviewed when the release of the defendant is considered. Your VIS will also become part of the court record (if given verbally) and will remain a permanent part of the court file and the prosecutor's file.