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If you find yourself facing criminal charges, you will certainly want to do everything you can to reduce or eliminate them. The answer could be as simple as asking someone to write a character reference for you that you or your attorney will read in court. Lawyers and judges refer to the person who writes the character reference as a referee.

The letter may outline how you live your life, how you have learned from your past mistakes, how a medical condition contributed to your actions, or any number of possibilities. Most courts accept letters from a referee rather than requiring that person to appear in court. Fortunately, judges understand that criminal cases are not always as straightforward as they seem and that mitigating circumstances may have played a role. Obtaining a character reference letter is your opportunity to prove this is true.

Who Should Write a Character Reference Letter for You?

The most important criteria for choosing a referee is that the person knows you well and you have maintained a relationship for a long time. You should not make the mistake of thinking you need to select someone well-known in the community to write a character reference for you because the strength of your relationship is the bigger determining factor. Examples of people you might ask for this type of favor include:

  • Your pastor, priest, rabbi, or other religious leader where you attend services and engage with the community.
  • A volunteer coordinator if you have complete volunteer work in the community.
  • A close friend or co-worker.
  • Your employer.

The person who agrees to write a character reference for you must then send it to the court. People are much more likely to agree to act as a referee if they understand the purpose of the letter and the format they should follow.

Guidelines for Referees Writing a Character Reference Letter for Criminal Offenses

One of the most important things to stress to the person writing a letter to the court on your behalf is to keep it short and to the point. The letter should describe you and your contributions to society. If you feel concerned about the possibility of a long or harsh sentence, the letter writer should touch on how the sentence would negatively impact you and/or your family. Here is some other information the referee should include:

  • How he or she knows you and the nature of your relationship.
  • Full name, current position, and any qualifications beyond a personal relationship with you that could make a difference.
  • Charges against you and whether the referee feels you have remorse over your past actions and whether you have learned from them.
  • Whether you were undergoing hardship at the time of the alleged crime that might have caused you to complete actions out of character for you.
  • Personal characteristics of yours that the letter writer admires.

The referee you choose may wish to use a character reference letter template to make the task as easy as possible. Judges are accustomed to seeing letters like this and will easily recognize the template.

Remember the Prosecution Bears the Burden of Proof

The system of justice in the United States declares anyone accused of a crime innocent until the party bringing the charges against him or her offers indisputable proof. When you need a strong defense, you need criminal defense attorney Sara A. Turner on your side. Please contact our Charleston, South Carolina office today to request your legal consultation.


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