How to Write a Letter to a Judge for a Forgiveness or Probation

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Writing a letter to a judge is an effective way to obtain leniency or probation. Most letters asking for leniency are written by a third party who knows the accused person. This letter is also known as a character reference letter. When well-written, this letter can support your defense and prompt the judge to show leniency.

Type your name and address on the upper left-hand side of the letter. Insert a blank below your address and write the full name of the judge beginning with “The Honorable” before her name. Write the name of the presiding court. Insert the court’s address.

Insert a blank after the court’s address and type in the date. Insert a blank and write the salutation, starting with “Your Honor.”

Identify yourself and the reason for writing the letter. If you are writing the letter on behalf of someone else, describe your relationship and how long you have known him. Indicate that you understand the offense. If you are writing on your behalf, affirm that you understand the wrong you have done. Indicate the date of the hearing.

Explain in the next paragraph the character of the accused by bringing out his positive aspects. Offer personal stories and examples of his helpful and compassionate qualities. Indicate that the accused has shown remorse.

Request leniency from the judge, especially if this is a first-time misdemeanor. Explain to the judge that the accused is willing to undergo probation and rehabilitation. Describe the suffering a conviction or prison sentence may cause to family, business or personal life.

Conclude by writing “Yours Sincerely” at the bottom right of the page. Insert your name, print the letter and sign it. Give the letter to the court clerk where the case is being heard and request that it be forwarded to the judge.

  • Do not tell the judge what sentence or judgment to hand down. Do not criticize the court.
  • Make your letter personal and brief. Do not make false statements.
  • Always consult with the accused before writing anything about him.

Jayden Mathews started writing professionally in 2006. His work has appeared in TECHNO, an e-mail magazine, among other publications. Mathews holds a master's degree in international journalism from the University of Westminster in London.