When a person is facing a court appearance, they want all the help they can get. Their lawyer will usually request certain people who know the defendant well to write a character reference letter that will help their client’s case.
Reasons For Character References In Court
The most common reasons for character references in court are to mitigate sentencing for a crime and for gaining child custody.
In some cases, a lawyer may request a negative character reference in order to increase the defendant’s sentence or to block the possibility of one parent gaining child custody.
Address Letter To Presiding Officer Of The Court
When writing a character letter for court, you must remember that the letter is addressed to the presiding officer of the court, and whatever is said must be true. You must be ready to depose before the court as a character witness.
It is always a good idea for the you to consult with the defendant’s lawyer about the content of the letter. While it shouldn’t have legal jargon, it should cover the relevant points.
Understand Relevant Points About The Case
The lawyer can give you the relevant points about the case, so you don’t claim the defendant didn’t do the crime if he or she has already pleaded guilty.
For court purposes, character references are usually the most successful for first offences or if the defendant is not guilty.
The important aspect of the letter is to provide positive information so that the defendant is not only judged on the basis of his or her crime.
Some of the details that need to be included in the letter are:
- Your name
- Your relationship with the defendant
- The length of time you have known the defendant
- Your knowledge of the defendant’s character
- Some positive attributes of the defendant’s character
The letter should give some details about any points mentioned. For example, if the defendant is helpful to his or her elderly neighbors, some relevant detail can be mentioned such as they drive the neighbor to the grocery store every week.
If you sincerely believes that the defendant is not guilty, it can be mentioned that the criminal act for which they are accused is Out of Character.
Details can be given such as the defendant rarely drinks and has never been seen drunk, so it is highly unlikely that they started a barroom brawl.
If the defendant has pleaded guilty, you need to mention you are aware that the defendant has pleaded guilty to the crime.
If there is a chance that the defendant may lose something essential to his livelihood such as his driver’s license in the case of DUI, it can be mentioned that the defendant is extremely sorry for what he has done and had entered an alcohol rehabilitation program. His family would suffer hardship if he was unable to drive because it is essential for his sales job.
Here are sample character reference letters that can be presented in court. It gives an idea of what should be said, but should not be followed exactly.
Any letter written will have a better chance of success if it doesn’t appear to follow a template. The judge may not give it much credence if it appears to be a form letter and not an original letter.
Sample 1 - Character Reference Letter For A Friend For Court
[Date of Letter]
The Honorable [First, Last Name]
Judge of [Circuit, District or other Court Name]
[Address of Judge]
RE: [Name of Defendant] – Expungement of Misdemeanor Larceny Charge
My name is _______________. I am over the age of 18 years old. I am not related by birth or marriage to the petitioner.
I have known the petitioner since __________ The petitioner attends church (or synagogue or mosque) at ____________. He volunteers at the local soup kitchen twice a week and has done so for three months.
During the little league baseball season, the petitioner helped me coach the team. The parents and I have appreciated his work. I also see the petitioner help people in need.
I have not seen the petitioner use illicit drugs, become intoxicated, or engage in dangerous or improper behavior. To my knowledge, the petitioner has not engaged in criminal activity.
I am familiar with his general behavior, character and reputation. The petitioner exhibits and otherwise is of good behavior and character in the community.
He has a good reputation in the community. I do not consider him to be a threat to the community in which the petitioner.
I offer this letter in support of the petition to expunge the petitioner’s conviction for ________________.
Sample 2 - Character Reference Letter For A Friend For Court
The Honorable [NAME OF JUDGE]
Judge of the Local Court of [CITY]
CITY, STATE, ZIP CODE
CITY, STATE, ZIP CODE
RE: [Name of Defendant] – Expungement of Basic Assault
Dear Judge [LAST NAME OF JUDGE]:
I’m sending this letter requesting leniency on behalf of [NAME OF CONVICTED], who was convicted of Basic Assault on [DATE] and will be sentenced on [DATE]. I have been his friend and employer for the past five years at [NAME OF BUSINESS].
I appreciate your fairness throughout the trial and understand he was fairly convicted of Basic Assault.
I would like to mention that even though he provoked the fight, it is a highly unusual action for him as he is not a violent person. The circumstances of his life at that time were very stressful, which pushed him to lash out.
[NAME OF CONVICTED] is the sole provider for his younger brother and sister since their parents died in a plane crash three years ago.
His sister became seriously ill with pneumonia and required hospitalization. He has health insurance at work, but it was not enough to cover all of her expenses, and he was terrified for her life.
Since his arrest, several local people have joined to give the help she needed, which shows he is loved in the community.
She has fully recovered. He sincerely regrets his actions and vows never to repeat them. I believe him because I know him well and humbly request a lenient sentence as time in jail will put his family in severe difficulty.
Thank you for taking the time to read my letter. I can be reached at [PHONE NUMBER].
Sample 3 - Character Reference Letter For A Friend For Court
City, State, Zip Code
The Honorable Judge [FIRST NAME LAST NAME]
Address of Judge
City, State, Zip Code
RE: [Name of Defendant] – Expungement of Felony Drug Charge
Dear Judge [LAST NAME]:
This letter is a formal reference letter to request to have the court expunge the criminal record of [Name of Person].
I have known Name of Person since his birth as I attended college with his mother and was a Maid of Honor in her wedding.
He is requesting that a felony conviction for possession of cocaine twelve years ago be expunged from his record as it is negatively impacting all of his job applications because of criminal background checks.
He served a jail term of 18 months and has had no further problems with drugs or the law. He considers his conviction the result of youthful carelessness and has no intention of being in any way involved with illegal drugs in the future.
After he was released from prison, he attended community college and received a diploma in network administration. However, whenever he applies for a job, they refuse because he has a criminal record.
I have watched him these last 10 years improve his life and would like to help him get the second chance he deserves. If you have any questions, I can be reached at [Phone Number] or at [Email Address].
Thank you in advance for considering my request.
Sample 4 - Character Reference Letter For A Friend For Court
Official Letterhead If Possible
City, State, Zip Code
Presiding Judge or Magistrate’s Name given by the defendant’s lawyer
RE: Character Reference for [NAME OF DEFENDANT]
The aim of this letter is to present the good character of [NAME]. We have worked together and been friends for the past 10 years as nurses in the [Name of Hospital].
I can confirm that she is careful, considerate, efficient and dedicated to the well-being of others. She has received several honors for her dedication to her work including Nurse of the Year for three consecutive years. She is well-regarded among all the staff at the hospital as a person of high integrity and honesty.
We have been together in several emergency situations, and she has always conducted herself with common sense and compassion.
I am aware that she has pleaded guilty to DUI. However, I wish to express that she is not a habitual drinker, and this unfortunate situation was most probably one-of-a-kind.
She has expressed to me many times that she is extremely sensitive to her transgression and is sorry for it. I hope this letter will give you an idea of her good character and help her get a second chance to prove this was an unusual occurrence.
Thank you for taking the time to read this letter.
Sample 5 - Character Reference Letter For A Friend For Court
Official Letterhead If Possible
I am writing in reference to Case# , which involves [Name], who is seeking custody of [Name of Child].
Custody is a serious and person commitment that will extend for the rest of a child’s life. As a friend and co-worker of [Name], I can think of no better person to be a mom. [Name] has always been very nurturing, even as a child.
[Name] dollies were the best dressed and cutest on the block. I always knew that one day she would make the greatest mother and having the chance to fulfill her dreams with make both her and her husband whole.
Nurturing comes very naturally to [Name], as she cares and respects all life. While she tends to be more of a coddler, her husband [Name of Husband] is the perfect balance to her. He tends to have a firm handle on discipline and to know how to handle even the most difficult child.
He has been over the bus ministry at our local church for the past 10 years. He has controlled children from all walks of life and though he has a stern exterior, I have often seen him throw his arms around them and hug them too. Together I think they would make the perfect parents for any child.
To conclude, if you are considering them for custody of [Name of Child], you should have no worries. They are upstanding citizens both in our community and in our inner circle. If you have any further questions, please feel free to call me at [Phone Number]. I can also be reached by email at [firstname.lastname@example.org].
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