If you have been convicted of a DUI, you may be required to attend a victim impact panel as part of your sentence. Since the early 1980s, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), government agencies, and independent organizations have used victim impact panels to educate drunk drivers and the public about the effects of driving under the influence.
Panels are one to two hours long and feature multiple speakers whose lives have been affected by drunk driving, often through the loss of a family member to a drunk driver. Law enforcement and first responders may also participate on panels.
Your participation is not required at a victim impact panel; the purpose is for the audience to listen to the stories of those who have been affected by intoxicated drivers. Panelists will not scold or berate you or engage in dialogue with the audience as they share their stories. Some victim impact panels have time for questions at the end, and some do not.
Panelists hope that you will take their stories to heart. Driving under the influence can injure someone for life or kill them, and the trauma stays with the victim’s family forever. Panelists also participate as a way of helping themselves process their loss and helping others know the potential impacts of DUI.
Victim impact panels are considered to be most effective on first-time offenders who have been convicted of misdemeanors. Studies conducted on attitudes toward DUI before and after attending a victim impact panel show that this intervention discourages repeat offenses.
However, repeat offenders, especially those who have already killed or injured someone through impaired driving, are better served by other types of interventions.
Many jurisdictions make attending a victim impact panel part of a DUI sentence. You will be required to attend a complete panel and obtain evidence of attendance (typically a certificate or signature from the organizers).
The court will usually provide you information about victim impact panels in your area. Some areas hold panels in Spanish as well as English. In many cases you must register in advance, providing your case number.
When you attend, bring your case number, valid ID, and any other information the panel or the court requests you to bring. Most panels also have a cost for offenders attending as part of a court requirement; this ranges from $5 to $60. Check with the panel about accepted methods of payment, as personal checks or credit cards are unlikely to be accepted, while cash or money order payment is more commonly required.
Note that if you arrive late, you will be turned away and will have to attend a later session, so give yourself plenty of time to get there.