How to Write a Mitigation Letter for the Court

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Letters of mitigation are letters that either a defendant, or a well-wisher of a defendant, may submit to an adjudicating tribunal or judge in the course of either a criminal or administrative hearing. The mitigation letter seeks to inform the adjudicator of positive aspects of the defendant that would warrant a reduced or lightened sentence.

Inform the court of your relationship with the defendant if you are an interested party writing the letter. Lay out how long you have known the defendant and in what capacity.

If you are the defendant, lay out a brief summary of your accomplishments, your family specifics and the amount of time you have lived in the local community or been involved in the subject matter that is the basis of your current administrative action. For example, if you are facing possible disciplinary action by the Medical Board, inform the adjudicator as to your medical credentials, your years in practice and how long you have practised in the area.

Explain your action surrounding the event, or your understanding of the actions of the defendant. The goal here is to lay out to the adjudicator any selfless or inadvertent motivations that may have been contributing, as compared to a criminal intent. Detail whether any benefit accrued to the defendant by his actions, and importantly, detail out what the impact of the defendant's actions were on those close to him. For example, if the physician in the above scenario acted to protect a vulnerable colleague, rather than to enrich herself, make this clear to the adjudicator. The mental state and motives of the defendant is important to an adjudicator for sentencing purposes.

Detail to the adjudicator the defendant's full compliance with the investigation of this matter. Explain how the defendant responded to investigator requests, how he acted during the investigation and whether he was forthcoming as to his actions during interviews and questioning. Remind the adjudicator of the defendant's remorse over the events.

Describe the defendant's criminal history to the adjudicator. If the defendant has no criminal history, explain how he has lived a crime-free life and ask for leniency so as not to place a black mark on his future. If the defendant has an existing criminal history, then you can plead for leniency to allow the defendant a chance to redeem himself, or suggest that counselling and therapy are appropriate, as opposed to a period of incarceration.

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