A character reference for court is a letter written by someone who knows the accused well, such as a family member or friend, and can influence their sentencing decision. These letters should be free of legal jargon and paint the defendant in a positive light. They can help with mitigating factors, such as remorse and prior good behaviour, that can help reduce the sentence.
How do you write a character reference for court?
The person writing the letter should start off by stating how they know the accused, including how long and how close of a relationship they have. They should then explain the nature of the offending and how it is out of character. If the accused has a history of substance abuse or mental illness, they should indicate this and how they are trying to address the issues.
Judges appreciate the opportunity to gain additional insight into a defendant from a third-party’s perspective. A well-written character letter can help the judge make a more informed and balanced sentencing decision.
While a character letter should highlight the positive aspects of an accused, it should never make derogatory statements about other people or attempt to undermine their case. Providing false information in a character letter destroys your credibility and can result in criminal charges against you. Judges also dislike character references that gloss over the fact that the accused committed a crime or pleaded guilty to a charge. They want to see that you have acknowledged the offending and have a true understanding of the situation.