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Victim Input Into Plea Agreements

NCJ Number
Date Published
November 2002
8 pages
Publication Series
This paper reviews issues pertinent to legislation that can better incorporate victim input on negotiated plea agreements into the criminal justice process.
When victims have been permitted to provide input into plea agreements, the right has usually been granted at two stages of the criminal justice process: when conferring with the prosecutor during plea bargaining and when addressing the court, either orally or in writing, before the entry of the plea. Depending on the law of a particular State, a victim may be given the opportunity to comment on the proposed plea at either or both of these stages. Most States provide victims with some level of prosecutorial consultation about a negotiated plea agreement; however, the extent of their participation varies widely from State to State. In no State is the right to confer interpreted as the right to direct the prosecution of the case or to veto decisions of the prosecutor. In several States, the law requires prosecutors to consult or confer with the victims concerning plea bargaining or negotiated plea agreements, but do not indicate what "consult" or "confer" mean in this context. In other States, the obligation to confer is apparently limited to notifying, informing, or advising victims of a plea bargain or agreement that has already been reached before presenting the proposed plea to the court. In at least 22 States, the victim's right to confer with the prosecutor requires a prosecutor to obtain the victim's views concerning the proposed plea. The impact of the offense is an important consideration in determining the appropriateness of a plea agreement; the victim can offer the court a unique perspective on the impact of the crime. In some States, the prosecutor must inform the court of the victim's position on the plea agreement. Few of the States with laws that give crime victims the right to consult with prosecutors concerning plea bargains have enforcement provisions to ensure compliance. In addition to compliance certification procedures, States can use other creative measures to ensure that victims' voices are heard throughout the plea bargaining process. Criminal justice professionals should be familiar with laws that govern victim input and should help victims understand their meaning. 41 notes

Date Published: November 1, 2002