As part of a sentence for a DUI crime, the judge might order you to attend a victim impact panel. Unless you have been part of one before, you might not have heard of victim impact panels or what happens during one.
The basics of a victim impact panel
Essentially, a victim impact panel is a meeting with three to four victims of DUI-related car accidents or one of their loved ones. The sentenced person listens as the panelists tell their stories of how drinking and driving affected their lives. The panelists are supposed to talk for about 15 minutes and deliver their stories in a non-judgmental manner.
The purpose is not to blame the person for getting convicted of a DUI or pleading guilty. Instead, the stated purposes of these panels are:
- Help the offender understand the potential impact that DUI can have on the community.
- Give victims an outlet for their experience and the chance to educate offenders.
- Build a partnership between victim service providers and justice agencies.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) began arranging victim impact panels in 1982. Since then, they have become popular options for DUI sentencing in California. They do not replace DUI school, which is a mandatory penalty for certain convictions. Panels can be conducted online.
Nobody should be punished for a DUI they did not commit
Some people who go through a victim impact panel find that it changes their thinking on drinking and driving. They might find it to be more meaningful than jail time, fines, community service or other common punishments for a DUI. But any sentence is unjust if you did not commit the crime. Avoiding a guilty verdict or being forced into a plea bargain when you are not guilty is a top priority for most people in that situation.