Character Reference Letter for Court (to Judge)

One of the steps taken during a legal process is writing a character reference letter for court. This article teaches you how to compose the letter of recommendation and other aspects such as:

  • What it is used for
  • Who can compose it
  • The structure of the letter
  • What to include in the letter and what to omit
  • A sample character reference letter
  • Specific tips for writing it

Character reference letters are used by the courts to understand a person’s character and personality. Such characteristics help in both criminal cases and cases without charge, such as child custody.

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When and Why the Letter is Used

A character reference letter for court is an official document used to show a person’s true nature. The most common uses of this document relate to cases in court:

  • With a conviction
  • About custody of children
  • About drunk driving (DUI) occurrences

If a person is accused of a crime, a lawyer can provide the court with a letter showing that the offense committed is utterly unusual for the defendant. A well-written letter that indicates the person on the good side and assures that abusive behavior is not typical for this person can persuade the court to mitigate the punishment.

A character reference letter can also be used in a child custody case. Then the letter should show the person as responsible and reasonable, capable of taking on child custody.

It is important to note that a letter is a legal form. Therefore, its forgery or the provision of incorrect data is punishable by law.

Summarizing what has been said, the main task of this form is to show the court the true character of the person and give an idea about their life. With a better understanding of the person’s behavior and nature, the court can deliver a fair decision.

Therefore, this document can benefit the defendant if they are not characterized by unlawful behavior and show themselves as worthy citizens in ordinary life. The letter is especially effective if the crime committed is the only one on account of the defendant or if the person is innocent. In this case, the judge will understand that the violation was completely unusual, and the likelihood of acquittal is high.

In matters of custody of children, the letter presents the person in a positive light. It is best if such a letter is provided by a person close to the family, who knows all aspects of their personal life. The letter should not contain any specific legal language. Instead, it should use formal language and contain only honest testimony.

A good option is to get the legal advice of a lawyer before submitting the document to the court. A lawyer will assist in writing and attach the form to the official testimony.

Details to Include in the Letter

Although this is an official document, there is no specified way of writing it. Nevertheless, there are specific details that the authors should include in such letters. The author of the letter must remember that this document will be used in an official case in court. Therefore, they must draw it up correctly.

Check that the letter contains the following details:

The Heading. In the upper left corner of the paper, write your full name and address.

The Date. Write the date the letter is drafted. Do not forget to include the year.

The Case Number. Skip two lines further below, include the case number or the name of the person to whom this letter concerns. This will make it easier for the court to identify the person and attach the paper to the case.

The Greeting. Skipping two lines again, formally greet the person you are sending the letter to (usually the Judge).

The Introduction. In this part, specify the purpose of writing the letter, the name of the recommended individual, how you are related, and describe the defendant’s character. Please write briefly, as the summary of facts is vital to the court.

The Body of the Letter. This is the main part of the letter that will help the court understand the defendant’s character and the life circumstances. Here, you can describe:

  1. The life situation that led to the issue
  2. Personal qualities
  3. The impact of this situation on behavior or emotional state
  4. The conclusions the defendant has drawn from the situation (if applicable).

If they commited a crime, this part should show that this was a one-time event and very unusual.

The Letter’s Closing. The last part of the letter provides a conclusion from all of the above.

The Signature. This is an official document. Therefore, at the end of the letter, the author of the letter must append the name and signature, thereby certifying the accuracy of all the testimonies given.

Who Should Write this Letter

  • Legal Case

If you are in a legal case, the best thing to do is ask someone who knows you well and who can present you in a favorable light to write such a letter. Also, keep in mind that this person must be a worthy member of society because it is important that the court takes this person’s words into consideration and with respect.

  • Child Custody

Undoubtedly, the letter author should be aware of your relationship with your children. This could be a school teacher or a psychiatrist supervising your children. The court very often listens to the judgments of psychiatrists in this matter.

  • DUI

In this case, a good choice would be someone who can describe your importance to society. For instance, your employer, who will describe what an irreplaceable and decent employee you are, or your relative, who will mention how helpful you are to them.

How to Ask This Person for a Reference?

Do not be afraid, and do not hesitate. Think about who can present you in a positive light, people who care about you. We are sure that they will be glad to write this letter to you.

You can ask your lawyer to speak to the person to introduce them to the heart of the case and show how this letter can help you.

You do not need a lot of letters: one or two well-written references will suffice.

Be sure to warn people to write only the truth. Although you need the letter, it is the truth that is beneficial to you. You also need to inform them that, if necessary, the court can summon them to give additional evidence.

How to Write the Letter

Keep the letter short. It is best if all the information fits on one page. The content should be clear and understandable. Although the information in the letter can be presented in different ways, it must include the following parts:t

Introduction

As with almost any letter, it is best to start with an introduction. Introduce yourself and briefly describe your relationship with the recommended individual. Indicate how you are related to each other, how long you have known each other, and how close you are. Do not go listing all of your meetings, but briefly make it clear to the court the extent of your closeness.

Main Part

The main part of the letter can be divided into the following sub-parts:

Relevant Background

Sometimes it is not malicious intent that can push a person to commit a crime, but exceptional life circumstances. Good people also stumble and do unusual things, especially under challenging circumstances. If the author of the letter is aware of such life situations, it is worth mentioning them in the letter. This will provide the court with a full-fledged picture and make it clear what prompted the person to commit illegal actions.

Personal Qualities

The description of the defendant’s character traits and personal qualities takes a special place in this letter. It is worth pointing out the positive traits that characterize the person favorably (if this is really the case).

For instance, if you are a boss or a colleague of the recommended individual, you can mention adherence to work ethics, diligence, and goodwill. Give an example and mention if the person is in charity or helping the disadvantaged.

An advantageous description of a person’s character will emphasize that the crime under discussion is utterly out of the ordinary and not a characteristic of this individual.

Familiarity With the Court Case

The letter author must be aware of the case in court. For the court, the letter will not matter much if the author does not know what the matter is. Such an assessment of a person’s character will not show the entire necessary picture of reality.

Impact Of the Prosecution

This part is not always included in the letter, although it is very important in some cases. The author of the letter can describe how the charges have affected the person and the resulting reaction. For instance, a person is in despair and repentance, depressed, upset—something that shows that the person is worried and does not find this behavior typical for themselves. Repentance indicates that there is little likelihood of a repeat offense.

Changes After the Incident

For example, if the accused person is accused of drunk driving, state that they acknowledged the mistake and pleaded guilty. In this case, the actions taken by the accused can be beneficial: a complete refusal of alcohol or attending a responsible drinking program. Thus, it can be shown that the person is already taking steps to avoid repeating the same mistake. In child custody cases, this may be attending parenting courses or visiting a psychologist.

Conclusion

The conclusion usually contains a phrase about the author’s knowledge of the seriousness of the crime or the recognition of the consequences, as well as contact information and a signature. In some cases, the court may decide to meet the author of the letter for an interview.

What to Do and Not to Do

The basic guidelines for writing this type of letter are not complicated:

  • It is important to be truthful and honest.
  • Highlight the defendant’s good side to shed light on their importance in society.
  • Be brief and clear. Avoid confusion and contradicting yourself.
  • Mention the defendant’s personal qualities and the life circumstances that led to the offense.
  • List all the good personal traits, giving examples of good deeds such as participating in charity.

What Not to Include:

  • Do not jump to conclusions about the person’s guilt or innocence. You can show that the wrongdoing is completely uncommon for the person.
  • Do not provide biased data. Excessive and unnatural praise can only make matters worse and lead the court to think that your testimony is unreliable.
  • Do not advise the judge on sentencing. This is the judge’s business. Your task is to give an honest description of the defendant.

Character Letter for Court: Samples

We are glad to present to your attention three samples of these types of letters developed by us.

1. Sample of a Character Reference Letter

Character Reference Letter

From _______________

____________________

____________________

(Write your full name and address)

______________, 20___

(Write the current date here)

Re:_________________

(Write the case number or the name of the accused person)

To: The Honorable Judge ______________ (insert the name of the Judge),

My name is __________________ (and your full name), and I am a ______________ (write your profession or occupation). I have known __________________ (write the person’s full name) as a good and loyal friend for over __________________ years (write how many years you have know each other). __________________(insert the person’s name) was my neighbour for some time before we became close friends. Our families often spend time together. I consider __________________ (insert the person’s name) as someone I hold in high confidence. For this reason I am happy to help __________________ (insert the name) and write a letter of reference for them regarding this matter. I understand the seriousness of this matter; however, I hope that some leniency will be shown.

__________________ (insert the person’s name) is a very reliable and honest person. My family can trust him/her in all matters. My spouse and I even leave our children with __________________ (insert the name) without any doubts. Moreover, it will be indicative that he/she does it with the best friendly intentions and never takes money for it. His/her constant volunteering at the local homeless center (provide the organization’s name) also shows his/her selflessness). He/she is always happy to come to the rescue—one has only to ask, and __________________ (insert the person’s name) does not expect any rewards for this.

In addition to our friendship, __________________ (insert the person’s name) is an upstanding member in the neighbourhood. It is unfortunate that he/she has made some bad decisions, thus resulting in this case. I was surprised to hear about the matter, but I am totally sure that __________________ (insert the person’s name) is ready to accept all responsibilities. Now he/she expresses complete remorse for the deed and willingness to pay off his/her debt to the local community. I have no doubt about the sincerity of his/her intentions.

I hope that the court will be able to take my letter into account and attach it to the case. Even in spite of this offense, I continue to consider __________________ (insert the person’s name) a worthy member of the local community and an example for many.

Sincerely,

__________________

(Affix your signature)

__________________

(Print your name)

2. Sample of a Character Letter for Child Custody

Character  Letter for Child Custody

From _______________

____________________

____________________

(Write your full name and address)

______________, 20___

(Write the current date here)

Re:_________________

(Write the case number or the name of the accused person)

To: The Honorable Judge ______________ (insert the name of the Judge),

My name is __________________ (put your full name); I am a ______________ (write your profession or occupation). I have known __________________ (write the person’s full name) as a good and loyal friend for over __________________ years (number of years). We met at my previous place of work and since then, our families have been very friendly. That is why I am delighted to write this letter in support of __________________(the person’s name) gaining custody over his/her child, __________________ (write the child’s name).

__________________ (the person’s name) is a person of exceptional kindness who attracts with unselfishness and honesty. His/her care and attention concern everyone in the room. Children feel this especially keenly, so my family and I are always happy to spend time with him/her.

We have known __________________ (the person’s name) for many years and during this time, I have had the opportunity to observe the growing up of __________________ (the child’s name) and their relationship with __________________ (the person’s name). I can say that this is one of the most caring and supportive parents I know.

__________________ (the person’s name) is willing to push back all the personal plans to attend the child’s concert or take __________________ (the child’s name) to a competition in another town. I think __________________ (the person’s name) is a great example to the child. I truly believe it would be in the  best interest for __________________ (insert the person’s name) to have custody of __________________ (the child’s name).

I hope that my letter will help the court make the right decision and allow it to be attached to this custody case. __________________ (the person’s name) is an amazing person, a worthy member of our community, and a caring parent.

Sincerely,

__________________

(Append your signature)

__________________

(Print your name)

3. Sample Character Reference Letter for DUI

Character Reference Letter

From _______________

____________________

____________________

(Write your full name and address)

______________, 20___

(Put the current date here)

Re:_________________

(Write the case number or the name of the accused person)

To: The Honorable Judge ______________ (insert the name of the Judge),

I am writing on behalf of __________________ (write the person’s full name). We have been co-workers and close friends for over __________________ years (write-in how many years you know each other). All this time, he/she showed himself/herself only from the best side as a reliable colleague and a loving and caring spouse and parent. The news of this case caught me by surprise since it is completely out of the spirit of __________________(insert the name).

Recently, __________________(insert the name) life has been affected by a series of setbacks—his/her father, with whom they were close, died, and he/she also lost a large amount of money. As a good friend of __________________(the name), I know that this greatly influenced the emotional state, which led to the violation of the law. I know that __________________(the name) is very remorseful and ready to pay off the debt to society. As a reliable member of society, he/she will not allow the situation to recur. __________________(the name) has already started attending the responsible drinking program. I believe that despite this offense, he/she is a good person who benefits our community.

I am fully aware of the dangers of drunk driving and consider it a serious violation. But I also see that __________________(the name) will never do it again in the future. I hope that the court will be able to take note of my words and that they will have a positive impact on __________________(the name) case.

Sincerely,

__________________

(Put your signature)

__________________

(Print your name)

Published: May 20, 2021