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How can a victim affect a criminal plea negotiation?

You might have heard stories of criminal victims blocking plea bargains for domestic violence cases in Illinois, but this power is not as absolute as some might make it seem. In fact, the law on victim's rights places several significant limits on the way a victim might interact with the prosecuting attorney.

You probably know that a public attorney represents victims in criminal cases. This means that criminal prosecutors tend to pursue the best interests of the state, namely punishing and controlling criminal elements of society. You might encounter cases when this goal involves pursuing a trial, but that is not always the case. 

The Illinois Compiled Statutes allow victims to receive notification of plea negotiation offers made by the prosecution. For example, if you were a defendant in a criminal case and your attorney received an offer for a reduced sentence, the prosecutor would be obliged to let the alleged victim know about the discussion. Furthermore, the prosecutor would have to consult with your alleged victim.

The ILCS also mention that victim impact statements are taken into account prior to plea negotiations. These statements are not legally binding, but the statements they contain might influence a prosecutor's plea offer— or preclude the offer in the first place. It is important that you realize, however, that a an alleged victim would not have the option to override an agreement your defense attorney made with a prosecutor, nor would the victim be able to force the case to trial. These powers are explicitly reserved in statutory law. Please do not regard this article as legal advice. It is simply meant to inform.

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