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How to write a letter of leniency to a judge

Updated February 21, 2017

Letters of leniency are written to a judge when an individual is facing sentencing. Prior to this, legal counsel addresses the court. Letters of leniency can be written by the individual facing sentencing, family members, friends, professional contacts or any others who have reason to believe they have information a judge needs to take into account before a sentencing.

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Letters of leniency are technically a professional business letter, and should be written as such in terms of form and language used.

  1. Write a list of the reasons why you feel the judge should be lenient. Include concrete reasons for why the judge should be lenient in sentencing the person you are writing the letter for. Good qualities, examples of good character, examples of movement toward rehabilitation or individual life circumstances are examples of elements to consider.

  2. Type your street address at the top of the page. An example of this might be "1234 Main Street." Type your city, state and zip code on the second line. An example of this might be "Chicago, Illinois 60601." Type the date on the third line. An example of this might be "May 26, 2011."

  3. Skip two lines. These lines separate your address from the judge's address, making the letter professional and easy to read.

  4. Type the judge's title and name. An example of this would be "The Honorable Judge John Jones." Type the name of the court on the following line. An example of this would be "Los Angeles Municipal Court." Type the street address of the court. An example of this would be "1234 Broadway." Type the city, state and zip code of the court. An example of this would be "Los Angeles, California 90002."

  5. Skip to to three lines. Type the salutation for the letter. An example of this would be, "Dear Judge Jones." Include a colon after the judge's last name.

  6. Skip one line. There should be a one line space between the letter's salutation and the body of your letter.

  7. Type one or two sentences, telling the judge why you are writing. An example of this might be, "I am writing to provide a character reference for Paul Smith." Keep this section as short as possible.

  8. Skip one line. Type a paragraph introducing yourself to the judge, including only information about yourself that is pertinent in you writing a letter of leniency for the individual you are writing for. For example, you may tell the judge you are the director of a rehabilitation group the individual being sentenced attended and have held this position for seven years.

  9. Skip one line. Write a paragraph about why the judge should be lenient when sentencing the individual being sentenced. Use the notes you made in Step 1.

  10. Skip one line. Type a paragraph a sentence or two long, informing the judge that you are available to talk if any further information is needed. Provide your phone number.

  11. Skip one line. Close the letter with "Sincerely" or "Thank you." Place a comma after your closing.

  12. Skip three lines. Type your name. Remember to sign the letter with your name using blue or black ink.

  13. Tip

    Use one-inch margins on all sides for the letter. Let the letter rest over night. Look at it again the next day and proofread it for clarity and proper spelling and grammar. Ask a trusted friend to proofread the letter for you. Retype the letter to incorporate any changes. Don't forget to sign the letter.

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Things You'll Need

  • Pen or pencil
  • Scratch paper
  • Judge's contact information
  • Computer or typewriter
  • Printer (if using computer)
  • Paper

About the Author

Marguerite Lance has been a professional writer for seven years and has written for museums, hospitals, non-profit agencies, governmental agencies and telecommunication companies. Her specialties include nutrition, dietetics and women's and children's health issues. Lance received a Bachelor of Arts in biological anthropology from Idaho State University.

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