Character Letter of Support for Sentencing in DC Criminal Court Cases: What You Should Know

Updated on July 5th, 2019 at 04:00 pm

Although a Judge does not have a great deal of discretion with sentencing due to guidelines, they do have some. Oftentimes, there is a range in the sentencing that the Judge has to place a defendant on. For example, a crime could carry an incarceration period of 5-10 years and the Judge makes the decision of whether to deliver a sentence of 5 years or the full 10. This is where a strong letter of support can be helpful. Asking a family member or friend to write a letter to the Judge expressing your positive character traits can influence the Judge to sentence a defendant on the lower end of the range. If you choose to ask someone to write a character letter for you, keep in mind that these letters should be carefully crafted so it may be in your best interest to contact a DC Criminal Defense attorney to assist you.

Good Rules Of Thumb

It isn’t recommended to state any opinions on the Defendant’s guilt or innocence. Expressing anger or resentment towards any government figures, especially the Judge, is certainly frowned upon and should be avoided. These remarks can and likely will be held against the Defendant. The idea is to show that you understand the Defendant is accepting responsibility for doing something(s) that he/she should not have. Indicating that you still have a high opinion of him/her despite that recognition is most helpful to the Defendant. Keep in mind that this is about helping the Defendant, so it is best to focus solely on their positive attributes. Also, it is very important to make sure that you do not mail anything to a Judge directly as they will likely not read it. You will have to go through an attorney to submit any personal documents to a Judge. Below, I will explain what should be included in the letter.

The first paragraph should focus on explaining your relationship with the Defendant. Why does it matter to you what happens to them? It must include the Defendant’s full name and in what capacity you know him/her as well as for how long. It is important to show your feelings for the Defendant such as friendship, love, admiration, or respect.

State Your Support

Next, you should give a statement of your support for the Defendant. Be sure to show your understanding of the position that the Defendant is in and why. Things to mention would include any conversations you had with the Defendant about their legal troubles as well as any offers of help. Are you able to provide any type of assistance (financial help, a place to live, a job, etc.)? If so, those are all great things to include in this portion of your letter. Show the Judge that the Defendant has a strong support system.

Following the statement of support, you should then focus on giving a character statement. This may be the most important section of your letter because this is where you essentially attempt to show the Judge that the Defendant isn’t a bad person, they just simply did a bad thing that is out of character. Any good, positive, or admirable traits or situations you can think of that apply to the Defendant can aid you in this goal. Examples of these traits would be hard-working, honest, generous, or loving. Positive personal experiences or insights can help the Judge see the Defendant’s true character.

Express Knowledge And Understanding Of Wrong Doing

Finally, you want to express that the Defendant understands what he/she did wrong and is truly sorry for doing it. Talk about how the Defendant would like to move on with their life, include specific plans such as going to college, if any apply. You can express why you think society wouldn’t benefit from sending the Defendant to jail or how detrimental a prison sentence would be to the involved parties. This is the area where you want to sum up all your points and impress upon the Judge as much as possible the view that the Defendant is, essentially, a good person. Again, this is a matter best discussed with an attorney so don’t hesitate to reach out to the experienced attorneys at Bruckheim & Patel.

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