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The Importance of a Character Reference

For anyone convicted of a drunk-driving offence, even someone pleading guilty, it’s imperative that he or she presents a strong case to the court. Anyone who doesn’t, faces a chance of more severe punishment. While there are many different things that can bolster your image before the magistrate, getting a set of well-written character references will assist you.

A character reference is a letter directed to the court by a friend, colleague, employer, family member, or another third party who has decided to write down some positive statements about the offender. These are a dime-a-dozen in drunk driving cases. 

That’s why it’s not the character reference that’s important. It’s the quality and the impact of those the court receives on your behalf.

What helps make a great character reference?

The best character references are typically written by a professional referee. The main things that set these letters apart from their less effective counterparts are as follows:

  • These letters highlight the hardships you, or your loved ones, face if you were to lose your license or be sentenced to jail time.
  • Professional character references highlight instances in which you showed yourself to be a true pillar of society.
  • They come from an individual who has a good reputation.  A letter prepared by a reputable businessman has more sway over the court than one prepared by your mother.
  • They truly help the court understand how you act on a daily basis.
  • They’re something the defendant can easily remember. The judge will often quiz you on the content of those letters. It’s important that you can recall the specifics.

What are the parts of a well-written character reference?

First and foremost, it’s advised that a defendant provides no more than three character references. Offering any more than that can be seen as a waste of the court’s time. With so few letters to go on, you must make each one count. Picking the right person is only half the battle.  The best and most effective character references have some things in common:

  • They’re short and sweet.  Anything more than one to two pages may irritate or frustrate the magistrate. Cut out all necessary information and make sure it’s concise.
  • They address the magistrate properly. Avoid starting character references with greetings that are overly friendly, cold, or rude. The best, and most common opening, is “To the Presiding Magistrate”.
  • They mention the right things. The best letters introduce the writer, explain how that person knows the offender, and mentions that they are fully aware of the charges facing the defendant.
  • They’re honest. A letter that seems less than honest, or forced, may have the opposite of the desired effect. Magistrates are trained to spot exaggerations and dishonest comments. Don’t give them a reason to discount a reference’s testimony.
  • They show the offender’s dedication to change. Unless they truly believe you are remorseful, a reference letter will have little impact. It’s important that the letters drive home your remorse.
  • They’re printed and formatted in a professional manner. Whenever possible, the person writing the letter should use organisational or business letterhead. This helps demonstrate the person’s status as a reputable professional. Additionally, all papers should utilize easy-to-read fonts and be signed in blue or black ink.
  • They include detailed contact information. While the court doesn’t typically contact references, it’s still a good idea that each letter provides a phone number, full name, and address.

Disclaimer : This article is just a summary of the subject matter being discussed and should not be regarded as a comprehensive legal advice for you to defend yourself alone. If you are charged with criminal offences, it is recommended that you seek legal assistance from criminal lawyers.

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