Character Reference Letter for Court is an official document used to demonstrate and provide insight into an accused person or a defendant’s good morals, values, and qualities to a judge or the court.
It is written by an individual that knows the accused well, such as a family member, friend, coworker, employer, religious leader, etc. A writer of a character reference letter for court is known as a ‘referee.’ The letter can be used by lawyers or defendants in child custody cases, drunk driving (DUI) hearings, or any case where the court requires to hear about an accused individual’s personality, reputation or value to society. The information provided in the character reference letter for a court can help sway the case’s verdict in the accused person’s favor.
A character reference letter for court helps the judge or jury determine who the accused person is. It helps a lawyer create a compelling defense for the accused by enabling the referee to direct the court’s view to the kind of person the defendant is. These help influence the ultimate sentence handed down in the case, be it civil or criminal.
The referee of the character reference letter for court should present the defendant or accused in a positive light. He/she should have a good reputation in the eyes of the community for the letter to be impactful on the decision made by the court. The referee should have some knowledge of the relationship shared between the plaintiff and the defendant to ensure that he/she can provide informed statements. He/she should also show and demonstrate the value a defendant has to society.
How to Write
Understanding how to write a character reference letter for court can help a referee provide adequate, relevant, and impactful information about the accused. It can also help ensure that the statements written by the referee are coherent.
The following is a step-by-step guide on how to write an effective character reference letter for court:
Heading and greeting
The referee should start by identifying himself/herself on the character reference letter for court. This should be done on the top left corner of the page by indicating his/her name, residential address, and contact information. The date when the character reference letter was written should be stated just below the referee details. The month, day, and year should be fully and appropriately written.
This section should also contain the following:
The heading should also reference or contain a subject line indicating the case number or the accused’s name. This helps the court attach the letter to the case or easily identify who the referring is attesting for. The type of case may also be stated on the subject line. This helps the court identify what type of case the referee is writing the letter for. However, the referee mustn’t write the information on the subject line without consulting the defendant’s attorney on what information he/she would like indicated.
The referee must also write a formal greeting addressing the judge/magistrate presiding over the case phase. Suppose the case is at the sentencing phase and is being heard in a magistrate’s court. In that case, the referee should address ‘To the sentencing magistrate,’ or if it is being heard in the district court, the referee can address the letter ‘To the presiding judge’ if the case is at this phase. Directly addressing the judge/magistrate ensures that the court knows that the letter is written specifically for the prosecution or sentencing phase of the case. The rest of the letter should refer to the judge or magistrate as ‘You honor’ as show respect to the court.
Next, the referee should write and explain basic information about him/her and the defendant. The purpose of the information provided in the introduction is to get the court/judge acquainted with the referee and the relationship he/she shares with the accused/defendant. The referee should ensure that the information is clear and positive. The introduction should also be short as the bulk of the information will be provided in the rest of the letter.
The following details should be included in a character reference letter for court introduction:
State who you are
The referee should start the introduction by stating and explaining who he/she is. Then, he/she should indicate his/her occupation and qualifications to show the court or/the judge that he/she is a contributing member of society. This will add credibility to the rest of the statements made in the letter.
Include details of your relationship with the candidate
The referee should also provide details about the relationship he/she shares with the defendant. He/she should indicate statements on the type of relationship they share and how long they have been associated. This will show the court that the statements made in the rest of the letter are based on the defendant’s history with the accused and his/her observations. The refers can also make a short statement indicating his/her belief about the defendant.
The referee should then write the body of the letter. The information contained in this section of the character reference letter for court is the letter’s focus. Its length will depend on the information provided by the referee and the recommendation of what is to be included by the defendant’s attorney. The referee should use the body to explain who the defendant is, the values he/she adds to the society or the effect the accused has had on his/her life, how he/she feels about the accused and what his/her believes about the defendant.
The information should be included broken down into the following components:
The referee should provide a relevant background about the case. Providing background information helps humanize the defendant by showing that there is more to him/her than the crime/ he/she is accused of committing. This can especially be useful in child custody cases where the referee provides background information detailing the relationship shared between the child and the parent/guardian.
The referee should then mention good personal qualities and character traits related to the case. The qualities mentioned should be positive and relevant to the offense committed.
If the defendant is accused of drinking and driving, the referee can state that the accused is a responsible person.
Familiarity with the court case
When drafting a character reference letter for court, the referee should be sure to take note and demonstrate his/her familiarity with the charges against the defendant. Simply stating the charges and the facts of the case will be enough to show the court that the referee is fully aware of the case and why he/she is required to write the letter. The referee may also mention if there have been any discussions on the offense with the accused and what the defendant has expressed about it, for example, remorse, desire to change, a willingness to seek help.
The referee should also mention any similar offenses committed by the accused to show the court that he /she is aware of the offenses committed by the accused. Information on what is causing the accused to keep committing the offense and the actions he/she is taking to prevent or mitigate the risk or recommitting the offense should be provided. It helps show that the referee is aware of the defendant’s criminal history and what actions the accused is taking to better his/her behavior.
The referee should state his /her opinion on whether he/she thinks it’s out of character for the accused to commit an offense. This helps the court discern if committing offenses, is part of the accused person’s nature. The opinion provided should be based on the reputation and general character traits indicated in the letter
Refer to concrete examples
The referee should provide significant examples to support the good qualities or traits indicated in the character reference letter for court. This will make the letter more detailed and enable the referee to personalize the character reference letter for court, making it more compelling.
Impact of the persecution
The referee should provide context on the possible impact of an unfavorable verdict for the accused or his/her family; for example, the referee may state how a defendant may be affected if custody of his/her child is taken away by the court. This will help show the court that the case’s outcome has a far-reaching impact on the defendant’s life.
Changes after the incident
The referees should indicate the defendant’s commitment to change after the case is concluded. This will show the court that the defendant is committed to reform and to becoming a better person.
Don’t suggest a penalty
The judge/magistrate is responsible for stating the penalty imposed on the defendant; therefore, the referee should avoid making such suggestions. The referee should only focus on providing information that may compel the court to rule in the defendant’s favor.
If there are any other matters relevant to the case or that may help compel the court to rule in favor of the defendant or exercise leniency during sentencing, the referee should mention it.
The final paragraph should summarize the contents of the introduction and the body in the conclusion. The reference should also request the court to consider the letter and what effect he/she hopes the letter will have.
The referee must sign the ends of the Character Reference Letter for Court by using an appropriate word or phrase such as ‘sincerely,’ sign and indicate his/her name. This ensures that the letter adheres to the appropriate business format.
Character Reference Letter for Court Template
[ Street Address]
[City, State Zip code]
To: The Honorable judge/magistrate [Name]
[Name of the court house]
[ Street Address]
[City, State Zip Code]
Re: Character Reference for Court Regarding [purpose]
I [referee’s name] am writing this character reference letter about [defendant’s name] who has been my [sate relationship shared with defendant] for [duration of relationship].
During which time I have observed [defendant] to be[qualities/traits]. [Short paragraph on the defendant’s relevant history, e.g., family or work history].
[Short paragraph stating familiarity with the case, the referee’s opinion, the impact of the outcome]
I hope you consider my reference letter when determining the outcome of this case. [Defendant’s name, [qualities] make him/her a valuable member of society.
Sample Character Reference Letter for Court
Following are some sample character reference letters for court given:
753 Franklin Street
Denver, Colorado 6564
Email: [email protected]
Date; March 5, 2020
To: The Honorable judge/magistrate George Parker
United States Courthouse
Nevada District Court Judge
Reno, Nevada 5474
Re: Character Reference for Court Regarding Child Custody
I, Ben Mayor, am writing this letter to you regarding child custody case#689-8889 between Alex Night and Malinda Star. I believe that Melinda should be granted full custody of the children subject to this case.
Melinda and I have been friends for 15 years. I have seen how Melinda has demonstrated love and care for her children during this time. While both parents have demonstrated good parenting, it is my opinion that Melinda would be the best for the children at this time
She is patient, understanding, and always works hard to set a good example. Melinda has a strong bond with the children, as was evident when her daughter chose to make her the subject of her class project documentary when asked to make a film on exceptional figures.
I believe this is a testament to their close solid bond. I hope that you take her love, care, patience, and compassion for her children into consideration.
P.O BOX 634 2354
To whom it may concern,
I exceptionally recommend Ruth Albert, who is more than a friend to me and a business partner at Maxwell boutique. I have known Ruth for six years now, and during this time, I have known Ruth’s qualities.
During this entire period, I have known Ruth to be an enthusiastic individual, hardworking, and have a high level of integrity. With excellent communication, Ruth has been involved with the community social workers where she aided in HIV/Aids initiatives, community mobilization, capacity building as well as planning and implementing community-based projects. It is evident that Ruth’s commitment and dedication to work.
Ruth has also helped with a little bit of accounting back at the business. Her professional manner was really impressive. She was competent in her role, where she balanced all the ledger accounts, profit, and loss accounts, and also bookkeeping. Ruth is an intelligent, competent, and capable individual.
I recommend Ruth Albert without any reservation. I believe that Ruth will be a useful asset to your organization. For any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Dos and Don’ts to Consider
There are dos and don’ts that a referee should consider when writing a character reference letter for court. This will help ease deciding on what information should be included in the character reference letter for court.
The following are the dos and don’ts when writing a character reference letter for court:
- The referee should keep the information clear and precise: This will ensure that the court /judge is not exhausted by a length character reference letter. It will also ensure that only relevant information is provided.
- The referee should mention 2-3 examples: This will strengthen the statements made in the character reference letter for court by helping to demonstrate the kind of person the defendant is. It also helps highlight the defendant’s good traits.
- The referee should consult the defendant’s lawyer: This ensures that the referee includes vital information that may impact the way the defendant is viewed.
- The referee should not be too technical with the information provided: The character reference letter for court should not cite specific laws as this is the lawyer’s job. Instead, the letter should tell a unique and personal story.
- The referee should not make suggestions on the penalty that should be imposed: The character reference letter should not suggest a particular sentence or outcome as this can be seen as leading the court’s decision.
- The referee should not comment on whether the defendant is guilty or innocent: If the defendant has not pleaded guilty to the offense or the court has not made a verdict, the referee should avoid stating a plea in the reference letter for court. This will ensure that the referee is not deemed as leading the court into a conviction or dismissal.
Reference Letter Templates
Following are some free downloadable templates for you:
Tips on Writing a Character Reference Letter for Court
There are certain tips that the referee should consider when writing a character reference letter for court. Considering these tips will ensure that the information is appropriately conveyed. It will also help ease the writing process.
These tips include:
Have the letter typed
Typing the character reference letter for court will ensure the information can be easily read in the hearing. A readable letter ensures that the referee’s statements about the defendant are conveyed. It also helps ensure that the letter, which is an official document, adheres to proper business formatting rules
The referee’s statements must be truthful to avoid misleading the court. A court can charge a referee with perjury if he/she is found to be providing false statements. Being truthful also helps in the creation of a sincere character reference letter.
Get the references to the lawyer early
The character reference letter for court should be presented to the defendant’s lawyer early for assessment. This helps ensure that the lawyer can advise the referee on whether certain statements can be made in the court and what information provided may damage the defendant’s case.
The information provided in the character reference letter for the court should not make excuses for the offense committed by the accused. This can be offensive to the victim; instead, the referee should keep the letter positive and focused on attesting to the kind of person the accused is.
- When drafting a character reference letter for a friend, always state and explain the relationship shared with the individual and the duration.
- The character reference letter for a friend should also contain positive traits and attributes about the subject, acknowledgment of the offense, and measures taken by the subject to prevent or mitigate a repeat of the mistake.
Frequently Asked Questions
A character reference letter should be written by those close to the person requiring it for the court. These may include; friends, family members, employers, charity organizations, religious organizations, and work colleagues.
The Referee to be tasked with writing the character reference letter needs to select wisely and with much care to ensure that they shall be able to write about specific relevant points about the accused.
The Referee needs to consult with the defendant’s lawyer before writing the letter. In as much as the letter should be official, it should also cover the relevant points. The defendant’s lawyer can be able to provide the Referee with the material points about the case, so they don’t end up claiming that the defendant didn’t commit the crime when they have already pleaded guilty to the offense.
Generally, there is no specific limit to how many character reference letters you can use in court. It is recommended to use the best 2-4 character reference letters in court contingent on the case, offense, and the offender’s circumstances.
Depending on where the case is being heard, the Referee is not generally required to attend court. However, if the case is being heard in the District Supreme Court, then the Referee may be required to attend court to provide any evidence should the prosecution wish to ask questions regarding the contents of the letter. The Referee may not be required to participate in such a case hearing if a copy of the character reference letter is forwarded to the prosecutor in advance.
Even though a character reference letter for court is addressed to the Judge or the Magistrate, it should not be sent directly to the court. Instead, it should be handed to the accused or their lawyer. The lawyer will check whether the reference letter can be helpful to the case and whether it shall be beneficial for the situation at hand.
You should send a reference letter as early as possible and well before the date of the court hearing as the lawyer will go through the letter and determine whether to use it or not. The letter may also provide the lawyer with some insight about the accused they had not previously known.