Most people never have the misfortune of being arrested and charged with a crime but for those that do there is a big misperception about how the system actually works. When the District Attorney sees a case he or she views the person from the standpoint that they are like every other criminal they have seen and fail to see the individual as an average person, their neighbor, co-worker, etc. As a defense lawyer it is my job to “humanize” my client to allow the prosecutor to see him or her as a person deserving of a break or second chance. Therefore, in nearly every case it is important for our clients to provide us with a list of character references. This is vital to your case. We need to be able to learn more about you from those that know you very well. In this way we can prepare for court and can best present you as a “good person” who deserves the courts utmost consideration in evaluating your credibility and whether you are entitled to some leniency or a dismissal of the case, when appropriate. A list of between 3 and 20 persons who know you and can provide us information about you that is positive in nature. We need the names, addresses and home, work and cell phone numbers of these persons (when available). We need to know what they do for a living and how long they have known you.
In many cases it is helpful for the character witness to provide a written account of your good character via a “character witness letter”. In the letter we need to know how well they know you and in what context. The letter should include as many accounts of “good deeds” as is possible. Also, the letter should speak directly to the traits at issue in the case. For example, if the case is domestic violence the letter should contain a testament to you as a peaceful non-violent person. Almost every case involves honesty so that should also be referenced whenever possible.