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How to write a character reference letter to a judge

Updated February 21, 2017

Character reference letters are used by judges to give insight into the personal character of defendants appearing in court. Letters are typically written by friends, relatives, clergy, employers, community leaders or persons that can attest to the character of the person in question. The letter should state definitive examples of the character and reputation of the defendant. Reference letters may have an impact on sentencing imposed.

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Address your letter to The Honorable Judge. If know the name of the presiding judge, you can add the judge's last name. If the case is being heard by a magistrate, the letter may be addressed to Presiding Magistrate. It is also proper to address the letter To Whom it May Concern or The Court.

State your relationship with the defendant and how long you have known him. Cite specific examples of character such as honesty, integrity, responsibility or remorse. Explain that you are aware of the specific offence that has been charged against the defendant. Comment on any personal anxiety or hardship the defendant has experienced due to being charged with the offence. Do not make negative statements regarding the personal character of the defendant. If you do not have anything positive to say, it is better not to state anything at all. Do not fabricate attributes in your statement. You may be summoned to appear in court to testify to the facts in your letter.

Type your letter. Include the date, your name, address and signature. Use an easy to read font, and business letter format. If you are representing a business or organisation, type your letter on business letterhead.

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About the Author

Johanna Miller has been writing professionally since 2010. She has been published in various online publications. Miller holds an Associate of Business degree with a concentration in accounting from Stark State College.

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