How to write a character reference letter for court with samples

What is a character reference letter?

A character reference is a letter written by someone well known to you who knows you equally well attesting to your good character. Anyone writing a character reference letter for court is writing to a judge to vouch for an accused person’s character. The writer should include- who he (the writer) is, how he knows the accused, how long he has known the accused, what his assessment of the accused’s character is, and any tangible examples that he can provide to support his assessment of the accused’s character.

Why is it important?

A Character reference letter for Court is important because it provides a direct view of what a person is like, often in ways that no lawyer can explain. Judges see this and it can influence their decision-making on the case.

Who should write a character reference letter?

Anyone writing a character reference letter should be someone who knows the accused/suspect well and is willing to vouch for them. It could be a friend, a spouse, other family member. It can also be someone known to you in a professional capacity, like a co-worker or supervisor. A priest or other religious or social leader, a teacher or guidance counsellor/psychiatrist is also in a good position to write a character reference letter.

The important thing is the person should show that they have had a good and relatively long relationship with you, enough to make sound judgment on your character that will sway the court positively.

Who should your letter be addressed to?

The letter itself should be addressed to the court. If the name of the judge or magistrate presiding over the case is known, you should include that in the letter. Keep in mind that the letter is meant to show the accused in a good light. The letter should first go through the accused’s lawyer to be vetted, who will then forward it to the court.

How long should your letter be?

Your letter should be long enough to include all the necessary details the court needs to know to make a positive assessment of the accused. Again, your aim is to give a positive assessment in your reference. Your letter however should not be too long as to make it cumbersome for the judge to process. Judges go through a lot of documentation on a daily basis. Try to fit your letter into one page, at most two.

What things should you include in the character reference letter?

Introduce Yourself

Introducing yourself means saying who you are, what your job is and include any qualifications you hold.

What else should you talk about in the letter?

You should state your relationship to the person. How do you know them? How long have you known them? How often do you see or call them? State your knowledge of the offence the person is charged with. How do they feel about what they have done? Has the person talked with you about the charges and why they are going to court? Has the person shown remorse for their actions. How have they done so? For example, have they been distressed or upset? Have they gone for counselling? Have they apologized to the victim. Have they suffered any hardship or punishment because of these offences? For example, did they lose their job? Their children? Their property? Was their reputation damaged?

What Not To Include

You should not include the following:

  • Do not suggest the penalty to be imposed.
  • Do not be critical of the law or of the victim.
  • Do not make comments like “I ask the court to look inside them…”
  • Do not say anything that is not true. It is an offence to mislead the Court.


Sample 1


Karen Shields,

2468 E-drive Winter Park,

Orlando, Florida.



June 21, 2018.

Judge Mathew Connors,

Presiding Magistrate,

Savannah Local Court,



Your Honor,

I am Karen Shields, an elementary school teacher with Cosgrove Elementary in Newark New, Jersey. I have been teaching over fifteen years, and have a Masters in Early Childhood Education. I have also been awarded the District’s Most Outstanding Teacher of the Year twice. Once in 2013 and again in 2015. I am writing a character reference letter for Susan Oren, who is my sister, now married and living in Connecticut with her husband and three children.

I was informed that she was arrested on 13th June, 2018 and charged with “Assault and Battery”. Susan is a mother of two and is very near and dear to us all. She is a kind, hardworking woman. She is also a pillar in the community as she is involved in several community-based groups and volunteers her time, energy and resources to helping quite a number of people. She even counsels at-risk teenagers in anger management. These kids have gone on to college, gotten scholarships, or engaged in other meaningful work- a testament to their turn-around. That was why it came as such a surprise for us as family members to hear of the charges she was facing.

Your honor, this incident has been a smear on Susan’s name and is not indicative of her true character. I know it will demoralize the community and the people she does so much good work with to hear of it. I have never known Susan to be a violent person in any way. She hardly even raises her voice at people. I am certain that the circumstances that led to this situation were quite extraordinary. She has had no previous criminal record. Susan herself is sorry about the entire incident and deeply regrets her actions. She has since apologized to the victim and the community and promised the incident wouldn’t repeat itself. I can guarantee that this will not happen again. She is currently attending counseling to address what happened. I know she takes full responsibility for her actions, and has learned her lesson.

Thank you for your time. I am available for contact and questioning at (555) 6889.


Karen Shields.


Sample 2


Michael Smith,

Citizens’ Watch,

245 Herry Lane,

Boston, MA. 36657.


Judge Mathew Connors,

The Presiding Judge,

Massachusetts District Court.

June 6, 2018.


Your Honor,



I write to the court on the subject matter in regards to Mr. Mase’s charge of “Possession of Prohibited Drugs” (Ecstasy).

I was informed of Mr. Mase’s charge on the 18th of June, 2018. I am his direct Supervisor at Citizens Watch, the newspaper where he works. We have been in operation since 2003. I have worked with him for more than 10 years and can attest to his good behavior. James is a model employee,- punctual and pleasant to be around. He is a consistent contributor in our weekly staff meetings, and recently gave the newspaper an idea that boosted revenue more than 10%. He is consistently rated highly by his other colleagues for being a team-player and leader in our monthly staff reviews. This was why we had to promote him twice in an usually short space of time within the last 2 years. He is an employee any organization would love to have. He is also a devoted father of 3 children. I have met his children and they are bright and well-behaved kids, evidence of the devotion and discipline Mr. Mase gives as a parent.

I was saddened to hear about his charges, as it struck me as highly uncharacteristic of him.

Mr. Mase is deeply remorseful about his actions, and attributes it to a poor judgment call in a weak moment. I am positive this was a one-off incident and is unlikely to ever happen again. This is the first time he has been arrested. He has no previous criminal record.

For confirmation or follow up on any of this information or anything else you’d like to know, this is my phone number: (718) 3264.


Michael Smith,

Asst. Editor, Citizens Watch.

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