The Importance Of a Character Witnesses In A Criminal Case

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 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.

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. If the case is one involving theft the emphasis should be how honest and trustworthy the individual is.  In DUI cases the issues are usually responsibility and good judgement. Almost every case involves credibility so that should also be referenced whenever possible, focusing on qualities of honesty, reliability, good nature and humanity, identify as many positive attributes as you can.

Here are some positive attributes often found in character reference letters:
Committed, loyal, devoted
Considerate, caring, empathetic
Courteous, polite, compassionate
Fair-minded, honest, trustworthy
Generous, giving, helpful
Good leader, responsible, mature for age
Good listener, good communicator
Hardworking, diligent, industrious
Intelligent, is a quick study, naturally curious
Christian, “God fearing”,
Patient, level-headed

For more information and help, go to how to write a character reference letter on this site.

About thetorranceattorney

Matthew Ruff is a Torrance criminal defense attorney located near the 405 freeway on Crenshaw Blvd. Focusing on DUI and serious criminal cases for over twenty years. In addition to criminal cases, Matthew also defends clients at the DMV.
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One Response to The Importance Of a Character Witnesses In A Criminal Case

  1. Richard Johnson says:

    Interesting information. If you have potential witnesses in your case it is essential that you provide your criminal defense lawyer with their details as soon as possible after you have pleaded not guilty.

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