What Is a Victim Impact Panel?

What Is a Victim Impact Panel?

Driving under the influence (DUI) isn’t a victimless crime. If you managed not to hurt yourself or anyone else, you’re lucky—this time. But luck always runs out. That’s why many states have implemented mandatory attendance at victim impact panels for those convicted of DUI. Studies have found these panels work, reducing reoffense rates. But what are they, and what exactly can you expect?

What Is a Victim Impact Panel?

A victim impact panel (VIP) is a program that allows those whose lives have been affected by drunk driving to share their stories with those who have been convicted of a DUI. The victims do not have to be directly related to your specific DUI case—in Oklahoma, anyone convicted of a DUI is required to attend a victim impact panel, whether or not they caused personal injury or damaged property.

The VIP takes place in a group setting and might include a presentation with photos, statistics, and a discussion. The victims will speak about how their life was changed by drunk driving—they may have lost a loved one, been injured, or experienced financial hardship. The idea is to encourage the offender to think about the consequences of their actions.

What’s the Difference Between a VIP and an Alcohol Assessment?

When you’re convicted of a DUI in Oklahoma, you’re also required to participate in a drug and alcohol assessment. This is an interview with a licensed counselor who will ask you questions, recommend treatment options, and point you toward free resources you can use. The goal is to help you realize and overcome your alcohol problem. Also, the judge for your case can then take the outcome of the evaluation into account during the sentencing process.Unlike the VIP, it is a one-on-one session and is completely confidential.

What’s the Difference Between a VIP and DUI School?

A victim impact panel is also not the same as DUI classes. Officially known in Oklahoma as Alcohol and Drug Substance Abuse Courses (ADSAC), this is another program that’s required for those convicted of DUI. While the VIP is a one-time event that takes a few hours, DUI school can be either 10 or 24 hours long, depending on what your alcohol assessment counselor recommends.

What Is the Oklahoma Law That Requires VIPs?

The law that set up the current structure for the punishment of DUIs—alcohol assessment, VIP, and DUI school—is 22 OK Stat § 991av1. This law also requires ignition interlock devices for certain DUIs.

When Do I Need to Attend a VIP?

It isn’t just those convicted of drunk driving that need to attend a VIP. If you’re convicted of crimes involving actual physical control, driving under the influence of drugs, or driving while impaired, which involves a slightly lower blood alcohol content than a DUI, you’ll also be required to participate in a VIP. Judges can also have you participate in a VIP as part of sentencing on other alcohol-related crimes, but they aren’t required to.

What Can I Expect at a Victim Impact Panel?

Aside from learning about what a victim impact panel is and is not, you're probably wondering what to expect when you attend one. In Oklahoma, VIPs are offered once a month in every county and are regulated by the state, so the format is similar no matter where you go. First, you’ll need to find a program near you, sign up, and pay the fee, which is a flat $75 across the state. On the day of the VIP, here’s what to expect:

  • You’ll be required to show a photo ID, and may need to bring other documents, depending on your county.
  • Sessions last about two hours or less.
  • Sessions are guided by a trained moderator.
  • You’ll attend in a group with others who have also been convicted of a DUI.
  • You’ll hear from a group of victims about how DUI has affected their lives.
  • You’ll watch a short video or presentation.
  • You’ll participate in a question-and-answer session with the victims.

VIPs can be emotional, but they are fact-based and aren’t meant to harass or finger-point at DUI offenders. The idea is to bring awareness to this crime’s real-life consequences and deter multiple DUIs.

Can I Get Out of Attending a Victim Impact Panel?

In short—no, you can’t avoid attending a VIP if you’ve been convicted of a DUI in Oklahoma, because they’re required by law. What about online sessions? While this is an option in some states, Oklahoma won’t accept certificates for online courses, which means that you need to attend an in-person VIP.

The Bottom Line

You can’t get out of attending an in-person VIP, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Ultimately, the answer to “What is a victim impact panel?” is that these sessions are an opportunity to see another person’s perspective and grow as a human being.

If you’ve been convicted of a DUI, an experienced attorney like Tulsa DUI Guy can help you negotiate your charge, guide you through the state's Impaired Driver Accountability Program (IDAP), and more. Get a free case evaluation today.