What are DUI victim impact panels?
Victim impact panels are lectures on the dangers and consequences of drunk driving. Most usually last from about 60-90 minutes, and are offered once or twice a month. At each lecture, different speakers will tell their stories of how drunk driving has affected their life. Speakers may include direct DUI accident victims, or family members who lost loved ones as a result of a drunk driving accident. They may also feature people who have hurt themselves by driving drunk or on drugs. The goal of the panels is to deter future DUI offenses by exposing the realities and consequences that drinking and driving have on innocent people.
When and why would I go to a victim impact panel?
Victim impact panels may be court ordered or voluntary. Depending on the particular laws in your state, there is a chance you may be required to attend a victim impact panel as part of your plea agreement or DUI conviction. DUI defense attorneys often advise clients accused of DUI to voluntarily attend a panel during the pendency of his/her case to help obtain a plea agreement to a lesser charge (though others may see it as an indication of guilt). The theory is that going to the panels shows the prosecutors and judge that you are taking the DUI charges seriously and that you are willing to cooperate to reduce your sentence.
To attend a victim impact panel, you typically must pay a fee (anywhere from $15 to $65 depending on your state). Check your local laws for applicability, and be sure to consult with an experienced attorney in your state if you have more questions.