How to write a letter to the judge before a loved one's sentencing

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Writing a letter to a judge presiding over a case involving a loved one can show your support for her release or a lighter sentence. The letter can provide the judge with insight into the person's past, her general character and values, and how she'd be, or was, an asset to the community.

A certain etiquette should be followed when writing this kind of letter.

Open a new document in your computer's word processing program. Be formal. Use Times New Roman or Courier New font in 12-point size. Type the current date in the left top corner. Double-space and type your name and address with no space in between. Double space, then type the name and address of the judge. An example:

Honourable Judge Joe Smith

Grant County Magistrate Court

Building 13

Charleston, WV 20095

Double space and address the judge again with:

Dear Honorable Joe Smith:

Double-space after addressing the judge. Type the body of the letter. State who you are, the person on whose behalf you're writing, your relationship to the person and her inmate/hearing number, if applicable. Include the hearing date. Double-space and begin a second paragraph; do not tab.

Begin the second paragraph with details of the offender's character, morals, values and achievements; specify what you believe she could contribute to the community were the judge to, for example, release her on probation. Include any contributions you can make to help her get back on her feet, such as help in finding a job, shelter, clothing and/or food. Be specific.

Thank the judge for his time and consideration in a single sentence after the body of the letter. Double-space and place an appropriate closing, such as "With Kind Regards" or "Sincerely"; follow with a comma. Hit enter two or three times and type your full name; leave enough space between the closing and your typed name for your signature.

Check for margin errors. Check that all of your text, from the date at the top left of the letter to the signature, is aligned at the left margin.

Run a spelling and grammar check. Then, print the letter and scan for words that may be spelt correctly but used incorrectly, such as "its" and "it's" and "your" and "you're."

Print the letter; check it once more. Use a ballpoint pen and sign your name between the closing and your typed name; black or blue ink is the only acceptable colour to use.

Fold the letter into three sections. Place in a legal-sized-letter envelope and seal. Turn the envelope to the front side and write the return address in the top left corner. Address the letter to the judge in the front centre of the envelope; use the same address as the one in the letter. Place a postage stamp in the top right corner. Mail the letter from the post office; get a tracking number so you can be sure that the letter was received.