A close-up shot of a judge being presented with character letters

The Importance of Character Letters for Court

Character letters in a criminal case are a must. Having a criminal lawyer who thinks through an effective sentencing strategy could make a big difference in any criminal case. Part of the strategy includes character letters for the court. These provide the defendant an opportunity to show their good morals. It is often written by someone who knows the defendant on a personal level and can vouch for them. While the content and style of the letter might vary depending on the case, the goal is to show the real character of the accused individual.  Read on to learn all you need to know about character letters for court.

The Importance and Purpose of Character Letters

Character letters are usually submitted in court to help the jury or judge get a better picture of the accused person’s character before making the final judgment. These letters can be a powerful tool in a criminal defense lawyer’s toolbox since it’s meant to portray compassion. This could positively impact the final sentence handed down.

Your lawyer could also use character letters during plea negotiations with the prosecution side. Perfectly written letters can help the prosecutor understand the personality of the defendant, which may end up resulting in a reduction of the criminal charges.

Things to Include

Character letters are all about creating a good impression of the accused in court, so there is no specific set of rules on what to include or how to structure your character letters. However, there are some basic things and general rules that apply to most of them. Here are a few things you should include in your character letter:

  • Addressing the letter: The character letter should start with the name of the judge. Make sure you should send it to the defense team and not directly to the judge. The attorney is responsible for submitting the character letter to the judge.
  • Identify yourself: A well-written character letter starts by explaining who the writer is and what they do. Follow this up by detailing how well you know the accused and the type of relationship you two have. For example, is the defendant a relative, spouse, friend, etc?
  • Facts about the accused: After explaining how you know the defendant; you should then write your honest opinion on the accused person’s character. Start with their childhood, then explain some of the obstacles they have gone through in life. Always mention their positive qualities too. Lastly, add any personal information you might deem relevant.
  • Acknowledge the offense: It is important to acknowledge the accused committed an offense, especially if the defendant talked to you in detail about the offense. If applicable you can say that the defendant was way out of character at the time.

Choose the Right People to Provide Character Letters

Deciding who should write character letters for the defendant can be a nerve-wracking process that tends to make the process harder than it should. Character letters should only be written by someone who knows the accused person very well.

Letters can be from anyone – a friend, spouse, or relative, to workmates and employers. They could comment on how the offense has affected your life and the positive changes the defendant has taken since the incident.

This gives the judge and prosecutor a better insight into the defendant’s subjective case and it also demonstrates that the accused is ready to accept responsibility for the offense since they disclosed it to those close to them.

The Best Time to Get Your Character Letters

You should present these letters to your attorney as early as possible. Then, if necessary, they can guide you through matters that need further explanation to ensure you make a good impression. If you feel you have information that is relevant and crucial to the case, consult with the attorney and the defendant who will determine whether you should include it.

If you or a family member are charged and in need of representation for a criminal case,  Kenney Legal Defense can help.  Contact Kenney Legal Defense at 855-505-5588 or fill out and submit the free consultation form on the home page.

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