3 Things To Know About Character Reference Letters For Criminal Cases

If your adult child was just convicted of a crime, you may want to do something that may affect the court's decision on sentencing for your child. There is not a lot you can do at this point, but there is one thing. You could talk to respected individuals that know your adult child well and ask them to write character reference letters to the court. Before you do this, there are several things you should know about character reference letters.

How Much Effect Do They Have?

After a court convicts a person of a crime, the sentencing trial will follow shortly afterwards. This trial is designed to state the person's sentencing for the conviction, and this ruling is final. While the convict can appeal it, the appeals process is long and difficult.

People write character reference letters as a way of persuading the court to be lenient on the convict. While there is no way to really know how much effect they can have, they certainly cannot make the sentencing any worse.

The letters need to be written directly to the judge handling the case and should be professional. They should be written as soon as possible so the judge will not only have time to read them, but so that he or she will also have time to contemplate the requests made in the letters.

Who Should Write The Letters?

If you are looking for people to write character reference letters for your adult child, you must be selective. The individuals you choose should know your son or daughter on a personal level, and these individuals should be:

  • Highly respectable people
  • Credible
  • People with some type of title

This can include close family members and friends, clergy, teachers, counselors, and employers. It is best if the people writing the letters have known your child for a long time. You could also write a letter on behalf of your child; however, the court may realize that you are biased because you are his or her parent.

What Should The Letters Include?

After asking a few people to write these letters, they may want to look up character reference letter templates. These templates will give them an idea of how to set up the letter, how to address it and sign it, and what to include in the letters. Here are some of the important elements that should be included in each character reference letter:

  • The relationship – The writer of the letter should include how he or she knows you child, how long they have known each other, and to what level they know each other.
  • The purpose – The letter should clearly state the reason the person is writing the letter. This will help the judge understand what the letter is for as soon as he or she starts reading it.
  • Character qualities – Character reference letters are designed to state the convict's good qualities. Helping the judge understand that this person really has a good heart and has never been in trouble before could make a difference in the sentencing. The letter could include a short story or two that illustrates the convict's character, or it could simply describe the person's nature.
  • Request – Another important feature of a character reference letter is the request. What is the writer asking the judge to do? In most cases, the letters ask the judge to be lenient when determining a sentencing. After making the request, the writer should thank the judge for taking the time to read and consider this request.

There isn't a lot you can do if your child is going through a criminal trial, but asking people to write these letters could help. You can learn more about this by talking to an attorney that specializes in criminal law.