RIGHT TO BE HEARD PRIOR TO PLEA AND SENTENCING
Crime victims in Connecticut have a state constitutional and a statutory right to address the court (orally and/or in writing):
· Before a judge accepts or rejects a plea agreement reached between the defendant and the prosecutor, and
· Before the judge impose a sentence upon the offender at a sentencing hearing.
(Conn.State.Con. Article 1, Section 8)
LEARN MORE ABOUT YOU RIGHTS
Learn more about your rights as a crime victim to address the court (orally or in writing) with respect to any plea and sentencing in adult criminal prosecutions:
The Right to Address the Court Regarding any Plea Agreement
Prior to the court accepting or rejecting a plea agreement reached between the state and the defendant, the court must permit the crime victim to appear before the court for the purpose of making a statement for the record regarding the victim’s opinion of the proposed plea agreement. (C.G.S. §54-91c).
Rather than appear before the court, the crime victim may submit a written statement or, if the victim is deceased, the legal representative or a member of the deceased victim’s immediate family may submit a statement to the state’s attorney. Any written statement submitted by the victim must be filed by the prosecutor with the court and the statement will become part of the record of the proceedings.
NOTE: A crime victim does not have the right to “veto” any plea agreement. The judge will hear from the parties and the crime victim and decide whether in his/her judgment the plea should be accepted or rejected.
A crime victim should notify the state attorney’s office at the court where the case is being prosecuted, and also notify the court, of his/her intent to address the court regarding any proposed plea agreement. The victim may complete and deliver the OVA’s “Notice of Intent to Exercise Crime Victim Rights” form to provide such notice.
The Right to Address the Court Regarding Sentencing
Prior to the imposition of a sentence upon an offender who has been found guilty of any crime or who has pleaded guilty or nolo contendere to any crime, the court must permit any crime victim to appear before the court to make a statement for the record regarding the sentence being considered. The victim’s statement, often referred to as a “victim impact statement,” must relate to the facts of the case, the appropriateness of the proposed punishment, and the extent of any injuries, financial losses and loss of earnings directly resulting from the crime for which the offender is being sentenced. (C.G.S. §54-91c).
Instead of appearing before the court to make such a statement, the crime victim may submit a written statement to the court, or, if the victim is deceased, the legal representative or a member of the immediate family of the deceased victim can submit such a statement.
The court-based victim services advocate is required to assist a crime victim who has sustained physical injury as a result of crime in the preparation of a victim impact statement.
A crime victim should notify the state attorney’s office at the court where the case is being prosecuted, and also notify the court, of his/her intent to address the court regarding the sentencing of the offender. The victim may complete and deliver the OVA’s “Notice of Intent to Exercise Crime Victim Rights” form to provide such notice.
NOTE: A crime victim does not have the right to “veto” any sentence proposed by the parties or any sentence rendered by the judge. The judge will hear from the parties and the crime victim and decide what sentence should be imposed.
Pre-sentence Investigation (PSI)
In addition to presenting a statement to the court regarding the sentence in the manner described above, in certain cases there is an additional opportunity for the crime victim to be heard. Once the defendant is convicted of a crime that calls for a prison term of more than one year (other than a capitol felony crime), and it is the first time the person has been convicted of such a crime, before the offender can be sentenced (but after the conviction), a pre-sentence investigation (PSI) must be ordered by the court. A court, however, may order a PSI for a person convicted of any crime (other than capitol felony).
The pre-sentence investigation is conducted by a probation officer and a report of the investigation is submitted by the probation officer to the court. The purpose of a pre-sentence investigation is to provide the judge with additional information about the offender, the nature of the offense committed, the impact of the crime on the victim, and to make sentencing recommendations so that the judge may be more informed at sentencing.
When a pre-sentence investigation is ordered, the probation officer will contact the crime victim and question the victim or homicide victim's immediate family about his/her/their attitude and any damages suffered by the victim or, in the case of a homicide, the family members (C.G.S. §54-91a).
The judge presiding over the sentencing hearing will review the pre-sentence investigation report prior to the hearing.
Connecticut State Constitution, Article I, Section 8(b) - Rights of Victims of Crime
In all criminal prosecutions, a victim, as the General Assembly may define by law, shall have the following rights:
... The right to object to or support any plea agreement entered into by the accused and the prosecution and to make a statement to the court prior to the acceptance by the court of the plea of guilty or nolo contendere by the accused…
…The right to make a statement to the court at sentencing…
(Top of Page)
§ 54-91c. Testimony of crime victim or representative of deceased crime victim prior to acceptance of plea agreement and at sentencing hearing
(a) For the purposes of this section, "victim" means a person who is a victim of a crime, the legal representative of such person, a member of a deceased victim's immediate family or a person designated by a deceased victim in accordance with section 1-56r.
(b) Prior to the imposition of sentence upon any defendant who has been found guilty of any crime or has pleaded guilty or nolo contendere to any crime, and prior to the acceptance by the court of a plea of guilty or nolo contendere made pursuant to a plea agreement with the state wherein the defendant pleads to a lesser offense than the offense with which such defendant was originally charged, the court shall permit any victim of the crime to appear before the court for the purpose of making a statement for the record, which statement may include the victim's opinion of any plea agreement. In lieu of such appearance, the victim may submit a written statement or, if the victim of the crime is deceased, the legal representative or a member of the immediate family of such deceased victim may submit a statement of such deceased victim to the state's attorney, assistant state's attorney or deputy assistant state's attorney in charge of the case. Such state's attorney, assistant state's attorney or deputy assistant state's attorney shall file the statement with the sentencing court and the statement shall be made a part of the record at the sentencing hearing. Any such statement, whether oral or written, shall relate to the facts of the case, the appropriateness of any penalty and the extent of any injuries, financial losses and loss of earnings directly resulting from the crime for which the defendant is being sentenced. The court shall inquire on the record whether any victim is present for the purpose of making an oral statement or has submitted a written statement. If no victim is present and no such written statement has been submitted, the court shall inquire on the record whether an attempt has been made to notify any such victim as provided in subsection (c) of this section. After consideration of any such statements, the court may refuse to accept, where appropriate, a negotiated plea or sentence, and the court shall give the defendant an opportunity to enter a new plea and to elect trial by jury or by the court.
(c) Prior to the imposition of sentence upon such defendant and prior to the acceptance of a plea pursuant to a plea agreement, the state's attorney, assistant state's attorney or deputy assistant state's attorney in charge of the case shall advise the victim of such crime of the date, time and place of the original sentencing hearing or any judicial proceeding concerning the acceptance of a plea pursuant to a plea agreement, provided the victim has informed such state's attorney, assistant state's attorney or deputy assistant state's attorney that such victim wishes to make or submit a statement as provided in subsection (b) of this section and has complied with a request from such state's attorney, assistant state's attorney or deputy assistant state's attorney to submit a stamped, self-addressed postcard for the purpose of such notification. If the state's attorney, assistant state's attorney or deputy assistant state's attorney is unable to notify the victim, such state's attorney, assistant state's attorney or deputy state's attorney shall sign a statement as to such notification.
(d) Upon the request of a victim, prior to the acceptance by the court of a plea of a defendant pursuant to a proposed plea agreement, the state's attorney, assistant state's attorney or deputy assistant state's attorney in charge of the case shall provide such victim with the terms of such proposed plea agreement in writing.
(e) The provisions of this section shall not apply to any proceedings held in accordance with section 46b-121 or section 54-76h.
(1981, P.A. 81-324, §§ 1 to 3, eff. July 1, 1981; 1985, P.A. 85- 117; 1986, P.A. 86-401, § 2, eff. June 9, 1986; 1998, P.A. 98-53; 1999, P.A. 99-247, § 1; 2000, P.A. 00-200, § 3; 2001, P.A. 01-211, § 10; 2002, P.A. 02-105, § 13; 2003, P.A. 03-179, § 1.)
(Top of Page)
§ 54-91a. Presentence investigation of defendant
(a) No defendant convicted of a crime, other than a capital felony, the punishment for which may include imprisonment for more than one year, may be sentenced, or the defendant's case otherwise disposed of, until a written report of investigation by a probation officer has been presented to and considered by the court, if the defendant is so convicted for the first time in this state; but any court may, in its discretion, order a presentence investigation for a defendant convicted of any crime or offense other than a capital felony.
(b) A defendant who is convicted of a crime and is not eligible for sentence review pursuant to section 51-195 may, with the consent of the sentencing judge and the prosecuting official, waive the presentence investigation.
(c) Whenever an investigation is required, the probation officer shall promptly inquire into the circumstances of the offense, the attitude of the complainant or victim, or of the immediate family where possible in cases of homicide, and the criminal record, social history and present condition of the defendant. Such investigation shall include an inquiry into any damages suffered by the victim, including medical expenses, loss of earnings and property loss. All local and state police agencies shall furnish to the probation officer such criminal records as the probation officer may request. When in the opinion of the court or the investigating authority it is desirable, such investigation shall include a physical and mental examination of the defendant. If the defendant is committed to any institution, the investigating agency shall send the reports of such investigation to the institution at the time of commitment.
(d) Any information contained in the files or report of an investigation pursuant to this section shall be available to the Court Support Services Division for the purpose of performing the duties contained in section 54- 63d and to the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services for purposes of diagnosis and treatment.
(1955, Supp. § 3337d; 1957, P.A. 639, § 1; 1958 Rev., § 54-109; 1959, P.A. 615, § 14, eff. June 30, 1959; 1976, P.A. 76-336, § 6; 1978, P.A. 78-188, § 5, eff. July 1, 1978; 1980, P.A. 80-313, § 48, eff. Oct. 1, 1980; 1982, P.A. 82-281; 1982, P.A. 82-298, § 5; 1985, P.A. 85- 98; 1990, P.A. 90-261, § 12, eff. May 18, 1990; 1995, P.A. 95-225, § 35, eff. Oct. 1, 1995; 1995, P.A. 95-261, § 4; 2000, P.A. 00-64, § 1; 2002, P.A. 02-132, § 41; 2003, P.A. 03-48, § 1.)
(Top of Page)