Character Reference Letter for Court (17+ Templates & Samples)

Many presiding judges like to take into account the personality and character of the defendant before making a judgment. This information can be collected from people who know the defendant well, such as close friends, family members, coworkers, employers, and religious leaders, and is done through these parties sending the judge a character reference letter.

What Is a Character Reference Letter for Court?

A character reference letter for court is a legal written document that provides insights into the defendant’s genuine character. The letter is a testimony from individuals who know the defendant personally.

Character references present the defendant’s attributes in the context of the offense to illuminate the possible reason behind the crime. Usually, first-time offenders, DUI offenders, and child custody claimants will find the letter particularly useful in swaying the court’s decision in their favor.

Family members or close colleagues write the letter to the judge in support of the defender. However, it’s important to note the letter is not a praise or recommendation letter. The character reference chief intends to give insights into the defendant’s character beyond the offense.

Note: Forging or documenting incorrect information on the character reference letter is a crime and punishable by law. Ensure you only capture the details of the defendant’s character to the best of your knowledge.

Who Should You Select to Write Your Letter?

While anyone can write a reference letter, as with any reference letter, it is best to choose a writer who has had meaningful and significant contact with the defendant and can testify to their good character. Some people who may be perfect for this task include:

  • A friend – Preferably one who has known you for a long time.
  • A close family member – Close family such as your siblings or parents likely knows you better than anyone and may offer the best recommendation.
  • An immediate relative – Anyone other than your parents and siblings who can vouch for you.
  • A coworker, especially someone in a managerial position.
  • A close associate such as a fellow church member, someone you volunteer with at a cause, or anyone with whom you interact that can write a reference for you.

Driving Under the Influence (DUI) Cases

DUI cases are treated with a high level of seriousness in the United States. If the defendant pleads or is found guilty, the best reference may come from a close family member or employer, who can demonstrate that jail time will harm other people in the family or community too.

Child Custody Cases

The main argument in a character reference letter for a child custody case is that the subject is a good parent and a positive influence on the child. The best writer – while it may be a friend or relative – is usually a psychiatrist who has worked with both the parent and the child.

How to Write a Character Reference Letter for Court

A Character Reference Letter for Court should be no longer than one page, but should not lack convincing power. The following is everything you should include in your message.


This segment comes right after the sender and recipient addresses, date, subject line, and proper salutation (the recipient may be addressed as ‘Hon. {Judge’s Name}’ or ‘To the Presiding Judge, {Court Name}’). The introduction should:

  • Introduce you to the judge.
  • Inform the judge of the nature and duration of your relationship with the subject.
  • State your intention for writing e.g. to ask for leniency.
  • Explain why you feel the need to write this reference letter.


The body, which could be divided into two or three short paragraphs, should expound on the argument made in the introduction. The aim is to show the subject in a positive light and asses their good character and moral code. Depending on who you are and the type of case, you may argue that:

  • The defendant is crucial to the workplace and should be shown leniency.
  • The defendant is an important part of the community.
  • The defendant is the main breadwinner in the family.
  • The defendant is a good person and made a genuine mistake.
  • The defendant being appointed as the custodial parent is in the best interest of the child.


Finally, the conclusion should recap and restate your intention for writing and plead with the court once more to consider leniency. You may also offer your contact information in case the judge has any follow-up questions. Close with your full name and signature.

Sample Character Reference Letter for a DUI (Drink Driving)

5 May 2031

Re: Character Reference Letter for Melanie Robert

To the Presiding Judge, New York Law Courts,

I, Nicholas Hubert, am writing on behalf of Melanie Robert who has been charged before your court with a DUI. Mrs. Robert is my employee at ABC Company, where she works as an Account Manager and it is my intent to plead with you that you show her leniency.

While it is true that Mrs. Robert committed the offence, this is the first time it has ever happened. She is a very responsible and gentle woman with no criminal record whatsoever. During her free time, she volunteers at the Sinai Shelter, where everyone loves her.

From a conversation with Mrs. Robert, I understand that she was forced to drive in that state to answer a distress call from one of her neighbors. I hope the court considers this when handling her case.

I am available to answer any questions through [email protected]


Nicholas Hubert

Sample Character Reference Letter for Family Court (Child Custody)

5 May 2031

Re: Character Reference Letter for Jacob Doyle

To the Presiding Judge, New Jersey Family Court,

I am writing on behalf of Jacob Doyle, my friend of 16 years, to recommend him for custody of his 7-year old daughter Grace Doyle, in the divorce case: Rebecca Vs. Jacob.

As mentioned, I have known Jacob for a very long time. I am confident, from my interactions with him and Grace, that he is an exemplary, caring, and attentive parent.

Jacob is the Operations Supervisor in the local New Jersey Community Outreach Program. Despite his passion for helping other people and how much of his time it takes, he has never missed a football game, parent-teacher day, or picnic.

Grace is very happy when her father is around and I am confident that Jacob will always act in the child’s best interest. It is my hope that you will rule in his favor.


Rebecca Fay

Sample Character Reference Letter for Court (for Family Member)

5 May 2031

Re: Character Reference Letter for Griffin Park

To the Presiding Judge, Georgia Law Courts,

I am writing on behalf of my husband, Griffin Park, who has been charged in your court with a minor count of assault for punching a Mr. Hyde on 12 April 2031. Griffin is normally a very calm man and such an event has never happened before.

On the day of the incident, my husband was under significant stress. He had just received news that his mother’s latest wave of chemotherapy was unsuccessful. This stress was exacerbated when Mr. Hyde insulted me while we were walking to the store.

My husband is a very kind man, a teacher at the local high school, and a part-time volunteer at the animal shelter. I am pleading with your court to show him leniency.

You can contact me at [email protected] if I can be of further assistance.


Phillis Park

Character Reference Letter for Court Templates

Character reference letter templates are editable letter formats written in the style and language of a formal reference letter. You can download and fill them out with your information to come up with a customized and relevant reference letter for court.

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Sample 05 Character reference letter for court (Drink Driving

Sample 06 Character reference letter for court (Assault Offence)

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    Dos and Don’ts of Character Reference Letter for Court

    A character reference letter has the power to sway the court’s decision in your favor and elicit acquittal. In light of the grave nature of the letter, here are dos and don’ts that significantly impact the character reference form:


    • Do state the general charges to the accused. The court appreciates familiarizing yourself with the case rather than a vague character reference letter.
    • Do try to mention positive qualities relevant to the offense. There are many positive attributes to choose from; focus on the relevant ones.
    • Do succinctly portray the person’s general character before linking the positive traits to the case. For example, in a DUI charge, state the accused is a family person, then go into details to describe how they are a responsible person.
    • Do mention examples that show the accused showcasing the positive attributes you mention. Illustrations strengthen the letter’s reliability.
    • Do request leniency formally. In the letter’s conclusion, ask the jury to consider the defendant’s character in the ruling as described by you.


    • Don’t recommend to the jury a ruling. Do not advise the judge to rule in the defendant’s favor despite your best intentions.
    • Don’t provide unnatural praise. The court can detect a referee trying too hard to glorify the accused.
    • Don’t undermine the case. Do not rule out the defendants’ possibility to commit the crime.

    Tips on Writing Character Reference Letter for Court

    Some valuable pointers to help you in writing a compelling character reference letter are:

    • Open your letter with a formal salutation. Mention the rank of the court and judge, i.e., “To the sentencing judge” or “To the sentencing magistrate.”
    • Acknowledge the charges tabled against the defendant. Refrain from commenting on the offense or dissuading the court from the degree of the crime.
    • In the body of the letter, describe how long you have known the accused and their genuine character. Link the positive attributes to why you believe the defendant couldn’t have committed the said offense.
    • State how a conviction will disproportionately affect their career or life. If it is a DUI charge, explain to the judge how the accused will lose their job that funds the medical bill for their mother in the hospital. Remember to keep the information genuine and do not construct make-belief emotional stories.
    • Maintain an overall formal tone in the letter. Avoid derogatory statements and hype comments.


    Do character letters help in court?

    Character letters provide the judge with your true character and show the adverse effect of the conviction on you. The letter can influence the court to rule in your favor.

    Do judges read character references?

     Yes. Judges read the character reference letter. Also, the attorney reads out loud and clearly for the prosecution to hear correctly and use the information to cross-examine the defendant.

    Who can write a character reference letter to the judge?

    A family member or a close individual can write a reference letter. The letter has to be informal language and legible.

    How long should a character reference letter for court be?

    It is best to present your character reference on one page. However, suppose the case cuts across different moral and behavioral grounds. In that case, you may need to make the document lengthier to accurately describe the defendant’s character in the context of the proceedings.

    Can a victim write a letter to the judge?

    If the victim deems the court isn’t providing the merited justice, they can write to the judge.

    Are court character references confidential?

    The short answer is no. The references can be made public if the judge rules it so under the principle of open justice.

    Can you get in trouble for a character reference?

    No. A character reference letter only demonstrates the accused character. No one can compel you to testify if you write a character reference letter for the accused

    When should I send the character reference letter?

    As soon as you complete writing it. Ideally, send the letter before the court rules on trial.

    Where do you send the court character reference letter?

    You address the letter to the court but send it to the defendant’s attorney. The attorney will scrutinize the letter and file it with the court if they deem it relevant.

    Is the referee required to attend the court?

    No one can compel the referee to attend court. You may do so out of your own volition.

    How many character reference letters can you use in court?

    You can have as many as possible. However, three character references from reputable individuals should fill the bill.

    Final Thoughts

    A character reference letter for court is an official document that will likely be read by a judge and one who is in charge of the defendant’s case. When drafting it, you want to be as truthful, straightforward, and convincing as possible. Give a glowing recommendation of the subject’s true character and help the reader see why the defendant is important to you.