A character reference letter is a letter written about an accused person’s character by someone who knows them well and is willing to vouch for them. The person writing the letter is referred to as a “Referee.” A character reference letter is crucial as it provides the court an insight of a person’s character in ways that no lawyer, no matter how good, can explain. Therefore, it is essential to get the letter appropriately done to maximize your chances at either dismiss the case or convince the court to impose a non-conviction penalty that will allow you to remain conviction-free.
When writing a character reference letter for court, you should bear in mind the tone and content of the letter. A reference letter should be clear and to the point to allow the Judge or Magistrate to consider the reference letter provided in light of the case.
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 of the offense.
How Many Character Reference Letters Can i Use in Court?
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 to the case, offense, and the offender’s circumstances.
Details to be included in the letter
- The Referee’s name
- The Referee’s relationship with the offender
- The duration in which the Referee has known the offender
- The Referee’s knowledge of the offender’s character
- Positive attributes of the offender’s character
When writing a character reference letter, there are several areas you should address:
- Introduce yourself: Introduce yourself in the letter, state what your occupation is the position you hold, e.g., family friend, Manager, Employer, Supervisor, etc.
- Define your relationship with the offender: Give a brief description of how you know the offender, and how long you’ve known him/her. Indicate whether you are a family member, employer, friend, or co-worker. The longer you have known each other, the more significant the weight of your character reference letter.
“As Mike’s Manager for over six years at Corn-bill Inc., I know how hard he has been struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder after coming back from his military duty. He has tried so much in dealing with his condition that it became a challenge for him to communicate and connect with other people.”
“I have known Mike ever since he was 12 years old after moving to our neighborhood more than three decades ago. He was the best man at my son’s wedding and is almost like a son to me.”
Ensure that the letter is brief and to the point. Don’t delve into a detailed personal history with the individual.
- Acknowledge the charges brought against the person: When writing a character reference letter, you should note down that you are aware of the charges brought against the offender. If the accused spoke to you about the allegations, indicate how the accused felt when describing the details of the events that led to their current situation, i.e., they were depressed or upset, they felt remorseful and sorry for what they did or that they have attended counseling or sought rehabilitation or treatment.
“I have seen how Mike deeply regrets having committed the offense. When he approached me to inform me of the charges, he knew in himself that he had done something wrong and that he must be held accountable for his actions. He could function properly at work, knowing that he had assaulted someone at the workplace.”
You can also include any personal problems or any hardships that may have propelled the accused to commit the offense. Do not argue against the charges brought against them on their behalf. You should also avoid making any direct reference to allude to the fact that you believe the charges brought against the accused are false.
- State your opinion of the accused person’s general character: Depict the reputation and general character of the accused in the community. Also, state that you believe that it is out of character for the person to have committed the offense. You can include any other information you feel would help bring out the integrity of the accused.
“I have known Mike to be a very humble, polite, and peaceful person, and he has always helped in community events organized by the Catholic Diocese of which he is also a member. It is the first time in my 30 years of knowing Mike that someone has accused him of assault. He has never been the type to resolve conflicts through violence. He has always stood up to protect the community from any form of violence. He is also an active member of the Military Counselling Society that provides counseling to juveniles in our community.”
Do not be tempted to include any information that is untrue in the letter, as lying to the court is an offense in itself. A character reference letter should be limited to providing positive, unbiased affirmations of the accused person’s behavior. It shouldn’t make any counsels as to the penalty you believe the accused shouldn’t be given.
Sample Character Reference Letter
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.
- MS Word
Is the Referee Required to Attend Court?
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.
Where do You Send the Character Reference Letter?
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.
When Do I Send the Character Reference Letter?
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.