A character reference letter can sometimes make the difference between a favorable and unfavorable resolution in a criminal case. You see, Prosecutors like to have documentary evidence justifying a reduction or dismissal in case the Supervising District Attorney reviews the file or they are called out on the case at a future date. The letters, if well written can also assist the lawyer in humanizing the client and making a DA feel good about offering a great deal or dropping the charges completely.
So, how to you go about writing a character reference letter and what information is important to include in the body of the document. The following is a sample of what the letter should contain:
Honorable Judge of the Superior Court
Or, “To Whom It May Concern”
(in cases where you do not want the writer to know about the nature of the case)
Re:(The client’s Name)
Your Honor or To Whom it May Concern:
(Give a brief statement concerning yourself; for example, your occupation, experience, training, education, or other facts that may have some impact on your opinion as it relates to (the person for whom you are writing the letter).
(Tell us how long you have known (the person in question) and under what circumstances; for example, friend, relative, neighbor, fellow worker, etc.)
(Tell us your opinion as to what kind of a person he/ she is. Give specific examples of actions or conduct that show (the person in question’s) good character, responsibility, motivation, community service, church activities, military service, concern for others, or any other conduct that may be relevant.). It is important to focus in on specific character traits that may relate to the case. For example, in a theft case the writer may want to provide detail about how honest or trustworthy a person has been. In a domestic violence case the writer should provide detail and examples of how peaceful and non-violent the person is. In a DUI case the writer may include information about how the person is generally responsible when drinking and always uses a designated diver when he or she had too much to drink.
(State whether you feel (the person in question) is a law-abiding productive person and whether this alleged act was a result of unusual circumstances and out of character for him/her.) (optional)
(State the likely effect of jail or imprisonment on (the person in question) and his/her family.) (this is optional)
(State any adverse consequences a criminal conviction may have on (the person in question’s employment, family, friends, and acquaintances.) (this is optional)
Sign the letter here
(Your Name Printed)
Your Address and phone number