It can be frustrating to have a friend who is on trial because you don't know how you can help. A reference or recommendation letter can be one way for you to support your friend. Submitted to the judge presiding over the case, a reference letter might affect sentencing if your friend is convicted and the judge is considering how much time they should serve. If you would like to create this kind of letter, here's what you've got to know.
You Must Be a Good Candidate for Such a Letter
Being a friend does not automatically make you the right person to write a reference letter. Someone who writes such a letter needs to have a relationship with the defendant, but must also have a relatively clean background. If you are in trouble with the law or have a substance abuse problem, your friend's lawyer might prefer that someone else write a letter unless you have special information that no one else has.
If you are a pastor, teacher, or boss, you are likely an excellent candidate to write one of these letters. If you are not, but know such a professional who is familiar with your friend, you might pass that name on to your friend's attorney.
You Need to Include Relevant Information
Once your friend's criminal lawyer has determined that you are a suitable person to compose a letter of reference, it is important that you only include relevant information. The one question you want to answer in your letter is "why?" You need to tell the judge why they should be lenient toward your friend during sentencing.
For instance, you can tell the judge about unusual circumstances that led to your friend's involvement in the crime or explain that they have recently suffered a loss in the family that has turned them astray. You may want to point out that they have put themselves into a treatment program for alcohol or that they help the children at the local school. Bear in mind that the judge is likely to investigate every claim you make; if you make untruthful statements, that will make it even worse for your friend.
Your Letter Might Not Affect the Judge's Decision
If you've taken the time to write a heartfelt letter of reference, you may feel confident that the judge will see things your way, especially if your friend has not been in legal trouble before. However, you may be wrong. Your letter may not sway the judge's opinion and you may have to help your friend begin the appeals process. Don't wait and be taken by surprise; start taking action right after you deliver your letter.
After learning the information laid out here, you can be better prepared to write a strong reference letter and deal with the outcome. Talk with your friend's criminal attorney to find out more about how you can help.
For a criminal law attorney, contact a law firm such as O'Brien and Dekker Attorneys at Law.