A character referee can be helpful not only to the court but also to the defendant. The referee can provide information about the defendant that would otherwise be dismissed or not considered during a court hearing. Information provided by the referee helps ensure that the court gets a glimpse of who the defendant is rather than just the crime that has been committed. A character witness letter is a tool that can be used to communicate these details.
A well-written character witness letter allows the court to see things from the perspective of someone who knows the defendant well. Such a view can impact how the court moves forward with sentencing. This begs the question, what is a character witness letter? What is its purpose? And how should it be written? This article explores these details to ensure that both defendant and the referee can fully utilize the character witness letter during court processes.
Templates and Examples
What is a Character Witness Letter?
A character witness letter is a document that is often used in judicial cases to demonstrate a defendant’s personality, morals, and reputation. It is written by a person that is well acquainted with the defendant. The character witness letter is often used in child custody cases, drunk driving occurrences, or severe criminal cases where it is requested.
Purpose of using it
Writing a character witness letter aims to help provide information to the judge that the defendant may not be able to. It ensures that the court has a vivid picture of who the defendant is. The letter also aims to support other legal processes like parole and immigration.
If You are a Requester
The defendant of the crime should take time to select a suitable advocate for the character witness letter. The best referee will stem from the defendant’s personal and professional life. Individuals in the accused person’s social network that are willing to donate their time to advocate on the defendant’s behalf should be among the first. The defendant should also ensure that those highlighted in the list are willing to see the process through to the end, as it can be stressful and exhausting, especially when dealing with serious charges.
Individuals with respectable occupations like teachers, school administrators, and religious leaders are among the most suitable candidates to be selected. However, family and friends do not always make the best candidates as they are perceived to be biased witnesses.
Who can act as a referee?
When selecting a referee, the accused should consider a number of factors. The first important factor is how long the defendant has known an individual. The longer the accused has known the referee, the better.
Secondly, the accused should also consider selecting a person whose opinions are likely to be respected by the court. The individual’s career can help determine if the person is respectable or not. For instance, teachers are considered respectable members of society. Finally, the accused should consider the charges brought before the court.
For instance, in a DUI case, it is best to select an employer or close family member who will be able to explain why the defendant is important to them and how they would be affected if the court decides to send the accused to jail or suspend their license. On the other hand, in a child custody case, it is best to select an individual who has witnessed the kind of relationship the defendant has with the child.
If You are a Writer
A person that is well acquainted with the accursed person can be selected to write the character witness letter. The information provided by the selected or appointed writer may impact the type of sentence the accused will receive. The information may also help ensure that the defendant receives a reduced sentence. Details indicated by the writer help ensure that the judge also includes the reference provided rather than simply relying on the facts presented and observed about the defendant’s crime.
Information to be Included
The writer of the character witness letter should indicate relevant information to the court. Therefore, the writer must understand what should be included in the letter. The following should be contained in a character witness letter:
The writer should begin by indicating the date of writing. The recipient’s information should then be provided. The information should include the designated judge’s name, the name of the courthouse, the title of the recipient, and the court’s address.
Secondly, a greeting that addresses the recipient directly should be indicated. The recipient’s name can be obtained from the defendant’s lawyer. The writer should ensure that the recipient is addressed appropriately, for example, ‘Dear Judge Smith’ rather than ‘Dear Mr.’ Smith.’
Thirdly an introduction explaining who the writer is should be indicated. It should contain information on the writer’s name and profession. A statement indicating the purpose of writing the letter should also be provided. The name of the individual whom the letter is for should be indicated in the statement. The writer should also acknowledge the charges. Such an acknowledgement shows that regardless of the accused person’s situation, the writer is still willing to write the character witness letter.
History/relation with the defendant
Next, information on how the writer and the defendant know each other should be provided. The writer should be specific on the nature of the relationship shared with the accused. For example, the writer may be a family member, close friend or coworker of the accused.
Details on how the writer and defendant first met and how long they have known each other should be clearly outlined. These details will help build the courts trust in what the writer has to say in the letter. The writer should also indicate how often they communicate with the defendant to help show that they are well acquainted.
Acknowledge their charges
The writer should continue by acknowledging the charges against the accused. If the accused has expressed how they’re feeling on the charges, then the writer should indicate this in the letter. The accused may express distress, remorse, regret, and desire to seek help through psychological rehabilitation programs and treatments. It helps show that the writer is aware of the defendant’s condition. The writer may also indicate any issues that may have caused the accused to commit the offense that the writer is aware of, like mental health, illness, and poverty.
State your opinion of the defendant’s general character
An honest statement expressing the writer’s opinion about the defendant’s general character should then be indicated. The writer should also provide examples of favorable aspects observed by the defendant, like generosity, selflessness, integrity, or remarkable achievements. Statements suggesting the type of sentencing to be imposed should be avoided as that decision can only be made by the court.
The writer should also provide supporting information, the such things the defendant is doing to become a better person. This may also include programs that the defendant has joined to change the bad habit that landed them in court. Such supporting statements help show that the defendant is capable of change.
The character witness letter should conclude with a statement highlighting the impact of incarceration on the defended friends, family, career, and future. It should also contain a statement that indicates the writer’s belief that the defendant has learned a valuable lesson from experience. The writer’s contact information should then be indicated alongside an offer to answer any judge’s questions.
The letter should end with an appropriate phrase or word such as ‘Sincerely’ or ‘Kind regard.’ A hard copy letter should contain a signature above the writer’s printed name.
Character Witness Letter Template
[City, State, zip code]
[Name of courthouse]
[City State, zip code]
Dear Judge [Recipient’s Name],
I am writing on behalf of [name of the defendant], who has been charged with [indicate the charges]. Name of defendant] and I have known each other for [indicate period]. We first met at [ provide background information].
I have always known [name of defendant] to be [ indicate personality traits observed]. [He/she] has even [ indicate activities that portray the defendant positively]. [He/she] is deeply [ indicate how the defendant feels]. [His/her] family [indicates how the case has affected the defendant’s family]. [Indicate actions the defendant will take to help others or do better]. I hope that you will consider this in your ruling. You can contact me at [contact information] for any questions.
[Writer’s Printed Name]
Character Witness Letter Sample
678 Main Street
New York, Ny3673
July 5, 2020
Judge David Murphy
West District Court
78 Pilgrims Road
New York, NY
Dear Judge Murphy,
This letter is on behalf of John Smith, who has been charged with drunk driving. John and I have known each other for 8 years. We first met at the University of Brighton, where I was teaching Philosophy. I have always known John to be responsible, kind, and a gentleman.
John is also caring, so much so that he teaches first aid at the community center to help empower people during emergencies. He is humiliated and apologetic for the actions that led him to your courtroom. His family has also been affected by this matter. Due to this, John has expressed his desire to go to rehab to help him get back on the right track. I hope that you will consider this in your ruling. You can contact me at 555-567-8436 or email@example.com for any questions.
A few practices should be considered when writing a character witness letter. These practices will help improve the quality of the writer’s letter. They will also help ensure that the letter communicates its message more effectively.
The practices include the following:
Follow business letter format
A character witness letter is an official document that should be written using the standard business letter format. It helps convey the writer’s professionalism which can work in the defendant’s favor. The business letter format also ensures that details are indicated on one page, making the letter a quick read for the judge.
The aim of the writer’s character witness letter should be to testify on the defendant’s personality and reputation. Therefore, the letter should focus on the defendant and not the charges. At most, the writer should only mention the charges to acknowledge the defendant’s crime or situation.
Tone of the letter
The tone of the character witness letter should be formal and honest as it touches on serious issues. It helps gain the judge’s trust. It also makes the contents of the letter more genuine.
Proofread and edit
The writer should proofread the letter upon completion to ensure that it is free of spelling and grammatical errors. Proofreading helps ensure no confusing and unclear statements in the letter. It also ensures that the letter is polished to high standards.
A character witness letter enables a referee to testify an accused person’s personality, morals, and reputation. The details indicated in the letter can help compel the judge to reduce the defends sentence or determine what sentence to impose. The writer of the character witness letter should be a respectable person in the defendant’s personal and professional life, like a teacher, employer, or religious leader.
The letter’s writer must ensure it contains information on the history shared with the defendant and an opinion on the defendant’s character. Examples that positively portray the defendant should also be used to help make the letter more impactful. A formal tone should be used in the writing process to help demonstrate professionalism. The writer of the character witness letter should consider using a template and reviewing samples to help ease the writing process.