Character Letters can be an important part of persuading a judge to be lenient when sentencing defendants.
Character reference letters to the court should look professional and be easy for the judge to read. If possible it should be Typed on white paper or letterhead.
Address letters formally using the judges title and name to “The Honorable Judge of the District Court” or “The Honorable Judge of the Circuit/County Court for (County)”
Make sure to sign and date the letter, and the original, not a copy, needs to go to the court.
Do not address the letter to defense or the prosecutor. Some defense lawyers prefer that you send the letters to their office first so they can review them, but make sure that you still address the letter to the judge, no matter what address is on the envelope.
Do not make disparaging or negative remarks about the judge, the prosecutor, or any other officer of the court. The letter should not minimize the seriousness of the offense or offer excuses. Focus on the defendant’s good character instead. Try to come across as an impartial observer who has positive things to say about the defendant because the defendant has good character.
DO include one or two positive personality traits of the defendant, (honest, responsible, family man, good parent, hard worker, etc.) and use examples of their positive behavior to illustrate. Show emotion, if you have seen the defendant help someone, describe the action and the result, the look on the person’s face, the tears of gratitude. Stress the defendant’s ties to the community, remorse and attempts at rehabilitation, restitution. Be informative, but concise
In addition to the character information about the defendant, include how you know the defendant and for how long, and a little about yourself, including your name address and profession, to give credibility to your opinion.
Letters should be individually prepared and personal rather than “form letters”. Do not type letters in advance and just ask people to sign them.