victims' rights

victims' rights, rights of victims in the prosecution of the crimes commited against them. Nearly all U.S. states have enacted some victims rights legislation; federal legislation also has been passed. Such laws typically ensure that victims receive respectful and compassionate treatment, that they are informed at critical stages of the criminal prosecution, and that their courtroom attendance and comments are invited when appropriate. Among the significant results of victims' rights laws has been the right of victims to make victim-impact statements at sentencing and parole hearings. Some critics have voiced concerns that such statements may influence sentencing unevenly, based on whether the victim or defendant is viewed more sympathetically, and that in general victim-impact statements tend to encourage sentencing based on emotion, sentiment, and even revenge rather than on reasoned judgment and the law.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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