A character reference letter for court is a formal document used to show a person’s moral and mental qualities when involved in a legal proceeding. One of the requirements for writing these letters is that you must be well conversant with the accused characters. Usually, the courts may require these letters under different occasions, such as vouching for child custody, drunk driving, and other situations where the courts may be interested in knowing more about an accused character or behaviors. The character reference letters are important as they help draw the case in favor of the applicant’s side.
Before writing an official character reference letter for court, the recommender should put the few important questions into considerations.
These questions include:
What charge is the defendant facing?
The recommender needs to understand the type of violation the defendant is accused of committing. The writer needs to understand the charges so as to decide to be part of the reference letter or not. For example, if the defendant is facing minor charges the writer may decide to participate in writing the reference letter. However, if the charge involves ethical violations such as theft, then he/she may decide not to be a participant.
Is it a first offense or a subsequent offense?
The recommender should inquire whether the defendant has committed similar crimes before. if for example, the offense is repeated, then there will be no need for writing the reference. The writer need to know whether the accused committed the offense unknowingly or intentional. If it is a repeated offense, chances are it was intentional. As such, the writer can decide not to write the reference letter.
Which court is handling the character reference?
The author should know the court in which the prosecution is taking place. With such an information, the writer can tailor the letter to meet the specifics on that particular court. This includes proper addressing and salutations.
Who is the recommender?
The recommender should clearly establish his/her identity and relationship with the accused. Describing your details and your eligibility to write the reference letters puts a lot of weight on these letters.
Are there any positive things about the defendant?
If the recommender have observed positive attributes on the defendant, they should mention it. For example, the defendant could be disciplined, humble, focused among other positive attributes. If the recommender notices any positive attributes of the accused, it can help steer the judgement in their favor.
What impact will the sentence bring to the defendant’s job and family?
It is also essential for the writer to consider the person that they are writing on behalf of, in terms of how the defendant’s personal life is, whether he is a productive member of the society in terms of working and whether he has a proper family background and other such factors that could add to the element of presenting the defendant as an appropriate individual.
It should be determined whether or not the writer of the letter would be able to attain support from such factors because in case such factors are absent, the writer may face difficulty in establishing the credibility of his letter as far as basic essential elements are concerned.
The author should identify the possible impacts the prosecution could bring either to the defendants job or family. For example, the defendant could lose his/her job for good. With this information, the writer will be at a position to plead with the judges on behalf of the accused who risk losing their job or having the family undergo financial difficulty to be lenient on their ruling.
Writing the Letter
When writing a character reference letter for courts, you need to consider certain elements/factors to make your letter more credible and convincing in court.
These elements include:
Addressing the letter
Your character reference letter should address either the magistrate or the judge handling the case in court. Whether it’s the magistrate or the judge, you need to address them as ‘Your Honor.’ This is a mandatory requirement that is needed for all the character reference letters. If at all you are in doubt, then it’s wise to consult the criminal attorney handling the accused case.
The reason for writing
Ideally, the primary reason as to why you should be writing a character reference for court letter is because you know the defendant very well and hence can provide credible proof or their moral and mental abilities or innocence. This should be established in the letter in terms of tone, information and format of the letter. In addition, you should be in a position to describe their behaviors and character. That’s said, the persons who qualify to write an official character reference letter for court include the family member, an employer, family friend, or close associate.
For example, if you are a family member, the chances are that you know the defendant inside out. As such, you can easily describe their characters to the court of law in the second section of the letter. Also, you can plead with the judge to show some leniency to the defendant as he/she means a lot to their kids or family members.
At the same time, if you are an employer, you can prove to the courts that the accused an ongoing work. You can also explain the duties, roles, and duration in which they have been your employees. Indicate whether the accused is hardworking, responsible, or disciplined. Last but not least, you can explain whether you are willing to continue having the accused as your employee should they be jailed or penalized.
Indicate if the charge is the first committed offense
Other than being specific while writing the letter, you may also want to indicate whether the defendant is facing charges for the first time. As you discuss these facts, be careful not to provide irrelevant or unjustifiable information. Therefore, if the accused has never committed an offense before, be sure to mention that in writing. However if he has not done so, it should be highlighted as clearly as possible in this section.
State that the accused has been remorseful
On some occasions, the accused may have committed the crime unknowingly, especially if this is the first time the crime is being committed by him or her. Therefore, they may have shown remorse for committing such acts and are therefore ready to pay for the damages or losses caused, which should be put in writing in any part of the body of the letter as when you write the character reference letter, this is important information you shouldn’t leave out.
Also, they might have apologized to the victims for the offense caused. Explain your observation on the accused, whether he/she is remorseful or regretful for their past acts. Also, you need to explain the observations that made you believe the accused has acknowledged their offense and is, therefore, truly sorry for it. If you are a close friend or family member, you can observe that the accused is frightened by the occasion or is lacking sleep or other signs of anxiety.
Explain hardships as consequences
Sometimes, an individual may undergo hardships forcing him/her to commit an offense due to a lack of options. When you are writing the character reference letter to court, you need to take in mind the accused’s community and background. Apart from that, get to know whether he or she was divorced recently, terminated from work, disowned by family or friends, or experiencing severe financial constraints or losses.
Sending the letter
The character reference letter should not be sent/mailed directly to the magistrates and court judges, as they often don’t reach these individuals directly. Rather, they are handed over to the criminal attorney that’s handling the accused case. After that, the attorney will scrutinize and check whether the reference is relevant to the case at hand. If found valid, then the attorney will decide to use it in the courts.
Usually, these reference letters are presented prior to the court hearing. If written properly, the reference letter will provide the attorney/lawyer with valuable and helpful information about the defendant he’s about to represent.
Format of a Character Reference Letter for Court
Generally, the character reference letter should be brief and cover a maximum of one page. Depending on how or what content you include in the letter, it may have an impact on the judge/magistrate’s final assessment or decision.
The main parts of the letter includes:
This is the first paragraph of your character reference. In this paragraph, you will indicate the state in which you reside. Also, you will mention how long you have known the accused and under what circumstances. Plus, you will explain why you feel the need to write the letter to the court.
To: The honorable magistrate [insert name],
I am writing this letter on behalf of Mr. Steve Jackson, gaining custody of his child, Samuel Sterling. As a family member, I have known Jackson all his life. He is a disciplined individual who respects and values his family. I strongly believe that Steve and his son Samuel will form a firm and excellent family.
The body paragraphs
It is in the body paragraph where major arguments and facts are stated. Preferably, this section should contain 1- 2 paragraphs. Make sure your argument points as strong, relevant, and exhibits high moral character. For instance, if you are an employer or a family member, then you can convince the judge/magistrate how the accused possesses quality characters based on the specific elements described in-depth in this article already.
As an uncle of Jackson, I have watched him grow since his childhood. At no single time did he commit the grave offense as the accused. In fact, he has been a church boy since his teenage. This, I believe, molded him to be a responsible person in our community.
Due to a good parental upbringing, Jackson has believed in the importance of a family. Ever since he got married, he has created a strong bond among his family members. On many occasions, I could watch them go to the park to enjoy the weekends with their son. He looks at his son with promising future expectations. Unfortunately, he had to divorce his wife due to family issues. Nonetheless, I believe he deserves child custody.
Your conclusion should be able to summarize your claims in a short and brief manner. Also, you should add your official career-related information such as business mailing address, official address so as to strengthen their credibility and roles mentioned in the reference letter. Lastly, the author should leave their personal contact so that you can be reached in case the judges/magistrate needs more information.
I do hope that you will consider my reference letter for Steve Jackson to have the child custody restored on him. Jackson is not only a good nephew but also a friend. Due to his incredible father figure, I strongly believe that he will excel at raising his son up to moral standards. If you need more information on the accused, please reach me at [insert contacts].
Format-Specific Do’s & Don’ts
While writing an official character reference letter for court, it’s important to keep in mind the tone and content of the reference. Since many people tend to make common mistakes, we have decided to create a list of dos and don’ts to help guide you all the way.
The list includes following points:
Do introduce yourself, your occupation, and the qualifications you hold. Mention your full names, place of residence, contact details, place of work and your job position (if the accused is your employee).
Don’t write the reference without giving a proper formal introduction of whom you are. Since this is an official letter, it will be good if you adhere to the formal standards of writing, including proper formal salutation and introduction.
Your relationship with the accused
Do give a summary of how you know the defendant and for how long you’ve known each other. It could be that you are a co-worker, friend, or family member. Also, the duration in which you’ve known each other has lots of weight in court proceedings as it puts you in a better position to understand the accused characters and behavior.
Don’t give a complete personal history with the accused. Mentioning personal history will be unnecessary. Preferably, you need to focus only on relevant information that pertains to the accused character, behavior or values.
Acknowledge the court charges put on the defendant
do let the courts be aware of how the accused feels about the charges after you acknowledge the charges out on the defendant by court. For instance, they may be angry, remorseful, sorry, or distressed about the offense they committed, however, that is secondary to pay heed to and primarily the acknowledgement of the charge must be done in order to come off as an appropriate and credible reference.
As you acknowledge the charges imposed on the accused, you should not argue against them. Or, you should not advise the courts that the accused should not be charged.
Your thoughts on the accused’s general character
Do describe the general character of the defendant in the community. As you describe the character, you can indicate whether you think the person was capable of committing the laid-off offense.
You should refrain from giving false arguments or testimony. Usually, a reference letter to the courts should only focus on the positive attributes. Therefore, you have no reason to lie to the courts or give any suggestions on how the accused should be sentenced or charged.
Character Reference Letter (for Court) Samples
To whom it may concern,
I have known Miss Christine Amanda for eight months, and during this time, she has been very supportive of my child. She is obedient, punctual, kind, and reliable. I can say that she is a professional teacher and manages her own daycare for the past five years.
I had the privilege to take my child to her childcare during the spring. Good enough, my kid was always happy with the place. She was well taken care of by Christine. Also, my kid started speaking and drawing very well and learned many art techniques.
Even as she faces her charges of child trafficking, I believe she is a person of integrity. She has proven beyond doubt that she is responsible. I hope that you take my reference letter into consideration as you continue with the court proceedings. If you need more information on Miss Christin, please contact me through firstname.lastname@example.org.
Parent Mary Hiss Child care.
To honorable [insert name of judge/magistrate]
Judge of the district of North Carolina
My name is Steve Durant. I am over the age of 18 years old. I am the elder prober of the petitioner, Mark Hudson.
I have known the petitioner since his birth. The petitioner is a religious fellow who goes to church every week. He also volunteers at the local supermarket thrice a month and has done so for the past year.
During the local basketball tournament last month, the accused was one of the best players who helped the team emerge victoriously. The couch, as well as his parents, were very great of him. On some occasions, I have seen Mr. Hudson help people in need.
I am familiar with his general behavior and character. The defendant often shows good behavior while at the community setup. Therefore I do not consider him to be a threat to society. As such, I offer this letter in support of the courts to expunge the accused conviction for a bond. If you want more information, reach me anytime at +1 828 283456.
Dear Judge/magistrate [insert name],
I am writing this reference letter requesting leniency on behalf of Klay Thompson, who was convicted of basic assault last week. I have been his employer for the past eight years at Green Store Limited Company.
I would want to appreciate your fairness throughout the trials. Even as the accused is set to face his sentencing on 20th June 2021, I want to request your kind favor. Even though he is charged with provoking a physical fight, he is not a violent person. It may be an unusual action that came due to his current tough family times. Just recently, he got divorced from his wife on unclear terms. At the same time, he lost his father, who has been struggling with pancreatic cancer. I do believe that he was undergoing a tough and stressful time, and that pushed him into the act.
My Klay Thompson is the breadwinner of the family. Both of his two sisters and the children look forward to him. As his employer, the accused has always been disciplined and hardworking. And even after the incident, he approached me and explained how sorry and regretful he was.
Since I know Klay Thompson very well, I humbly request a lenient sentence. Putting him on time jail will subject his family to tough times. Thanks for your time and consideration. If you need more information, you can reach me through [insert contacts].
Manager Green Store Limited Company
Download free official character reference letter for court templates from below
It is always good to show good moral character so that when you need a character reference letter, many people will wish to volunteer. Character reference letters can help sway the magistrate’s judgment in favor of the accused. This is particularly true if the accused has a good track record in society. If you know a friend, relative, or workmate who is facing charges yet they have positive attributes in society, always attempt to write them an official character reference letter for court. It will help a lot in reducing their charges.