November 6, 2021 | Criminal Defense
Suhre & Associates Louisville criminal defense lawyers discuss some important tips for an effective character letter for a judge in this blog. Character letters are an important tool in a defense lawyer’s arsenal. These letters can be extremely powerful at sentencing hearings after a conviction or guilty plea.
A judge usually has a good deal of latitude when imposing a sentence. This isn’t always the case, as certain serious charges may have a specific minimum punishment. In general, judges are able to impose a sentence tailored specifically to an individual.
A good criminal defense lawyer will help their client thoroughly prepare for a sentencing hearing. A persuasive hearing can result in much more favorable outcomes and sometimes shave years off of a prison sentence — or even obtain probation instead of jail time. A key piece of a strong sentencing hearing is a character letter to the judge about the defendant.
#1 Who Should You Get a Character Letter From?
The first tip for an effective character letter is to get them from the right people. At Suhre & Associates, we prefer to obtain character letters well in advance of a sentencing hearing, so we know we have them ready.
Some of the most persuasive, effective character letters come from:
- Addiction Treatment Providers
- Mental Health Counselors
- Religious leader
Of course, you need to work with your lawyer to determine from whom you should request a character letter. One character letter can go a long way, but that is even better if you can get a few of them.
Sometimes, at sentencing, family members and friends will ask to address the court. This is usually beneficial and shows you have the support of loved ones. Talk with your lawyer about who may want to speak at a sentencing hearing; they may have insight into whether it is a good idea in your unique situation. Sometimes, a letter is a safer bet!
#2 What Should They Say in a Character Letter?
The second tip to an effective character letter in Louisville is making sure the character reference knows what they need to convey.
When asking someone to write you a character letter for a judge, you should explain that the letter should address the following points:
- How they know you and how long they’ve known you
- What makes you a good person
- Why you deserve a lenient sentence
- They support you and will help keep you out of trouble
- Your involvement in the community
- Your work ethic
Every character letter will be unique, depending on who is writing it. For instance, when an employer writes the letter, they will focus on your good work ethic, reliability, lack of disciplinary issues, leadership, and how they want you back at work.
The employer reference letter is very different from a reference letter from your mother! The letter from a mom focuses more on what a good kid you are, how much she loves you, how this situation is irregular and out of character for you, etc.
The key to a good character letter is that the writer is honest and writes from the heart. Everyone, and especially judges, can see straight through B.S. To be persuasive and convincing, make sure you tell everyone to be honest and speak from the heart.
#3 Get Them to Show up at the Hearing
The third tip to an effective character letter is to get your reference to show up at your hearing in Louisville. By showing up, it ensures that you will have support sitting right behind you in court.
When you are at a sentencing hearing alone, it dehumanizes you and makes it look like nobody cares about you. When loved ones and employers show up for you, it is a HUGE gesture of love and support. The judge will understand how much people must care about you. If people love you that much to show up, you can’t be as bad as the prosecutor says.
Additionally, having someone who wrote a character letter show up in court gives it more weight with the court. A letter written by a faceless person the judge can’t see is less persuasive. By showing up, the character reference stands behind everything they said.