Impaired driving convictions generally carry severe penalties like jail time and fines. However, state Legislatures have also come up with a plethora of requirements for DUI offenders that are aimed at reducing recidivism. For example, it's common for states to have mandatory treatment programs to address the underlying addiction issues of DUI offenders. And ignition interlock devices (IIDs), which prevent a car from starting if the driver has alcohol on his or her breath, are now required in many states.
In some states, DUI offenders are also required to attend a "Victim Impact Panel" (VIP). At these presentations, DUI offenders hear from victims and learn about the heartbreak and harm that can come from an impaired driving injury or fatality. This article explains how Victim Impact Panels work.
Purpose and subject matter. Victim Impact Panels are simply presentations where the speakers talk about the dangers of and harms caused by drunk driving. The presenters are generally people who have sustained serious injuries or lost loved ones in an accident caused by an intoxicated driver. The purpose of VIPs is to help DUI offenders to recognize and internalize the lasting impacts of drunk driving. The idea is that, with knowledge, DUI offenders will develop empathy for victims and be less likely to re-offend.
Requirements. Victim Impact Panel presentations usually last a couple of hours. At VIPs, the speakers simply share their stories and experiences related to how a drunk driving accident has changed and affected their lives. Attendees aren't required to ask or answer any questions and aren't there to be judged, blamed, or confronted. In other words, the attendees are just there to listen.
In-person and online options. In the past, victim impact panels were all in-person and generally held at churches, community centers, and the like. Nowadays, there are also online options. One of the main providers, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), has both online and in-person VIPs.
Cost of VIP programs. VIP attendees might have to pay a small fee ($50 to $100) for the program.
Panel attendance is most often required when ordered by a judge as part of sentencing for a first DUI offense. A DUI conviction is the most common reason for attendance, but a judge may also order attendance for other alcohol-related offenses such as "wet reckless," underage alcohol consumption, or vehicular manslaughter. Some plea agreements, DUI Courts, or diversion programs may also require a victim impact panel as part of the program requirements. A driver may also be required to attend a VIP in order to reinstate a driver's license after an alcohol-related suspension.