Writing a Letter to the Judge Before Sentencing

Written by J. Hirby | Fact checked by The Law Dictionary staff |  

If you are a defendant in a trial, you may want to write a letter to the judge before he imposes sentencing. Always consult with your attorney before taking any action regarding your case. If your attorney agrees that writing a letter to the judge will help your case, have the attorney submit the letter into evidence. Here are some tips to help make your letter as effective as possible.

First, remember that you are writing to a professional. Write the letter in a business format. Everything should be aligned on the left. Place your address at the top of the letter. Below, put the date. Next, put the judge’s name, title, and address. Begin the letter by addressing the judge by his or her correct name and title. An example would be Dear Magistrate Judge Jones.

Begin the letter by admitting that you understand what you did and why it is wrong. Accept responsibility and regret. Be sincere and truthful. State why you are writing the letter. Are you asking for a shorter sentence? Are you asking for a lesser fine?

Perhaps now would be a good time to address whether you have had any similar arrests. Clearly it will be to your advantage if you have not. Include a statement about how you have changed since the event that brought you into court. Write about how you are trying to overcome the issue or that you have overcome the issue. Explain how you plan to avoid repeating the same mistake.

Next, offer specific examples of good deeds that you have performed on a consistent basis. Have you been a Boy Scout or Girl Scout leader for five years? Then put that in the letter. Have you coached little league for two years? Include that fact. Explain how much it meant to you to be able to work with the kids.

Now, explain how being in prison for an extended time will harm you, your family, or even your employer. A lengthy prison term will probably result in job loss and no income. Explain how that will harm your family financially. Even if your boss will hold your job for you, it might put undue strain on your boss and his business. If this is true, let the judge know.

Close with thanking the judge for his time and consideration. Sign the letter with sincerely and your name.

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