How to Write a Letter to a Judge for Sentencing – R&R Law Group

How to Write a Letter to a Judge for Sentencing – R&R Law Group


– In this video we’re talking about how to write a letter to a judge. This is a question we get very often. People want to know what happens if I write a letter to the judge? Was that going to accomplish my goals? Some people want their cases dismissed, they think if they send a nice letter, the judge can wave a magic wand and the case is gonna go
away or they ask the judge “can I reduce my charges?
Please reduce my charges. Listen to my story and
give me a reduction.” Well in most situations, the judge does not have the
legal authority to do that. The judge just can’t do it. The prosecutor is the
person who is representing the government, they’re the
ones representing the police office or the investigation or the state. And so they’re the ones
that have that authority and the judge doesn’t but
there are times in a case when a judge does have some
discretion to do something. And this, most of the time
comes across in sentencing. At a sentencing phase, what that means is that a
person has either plead guilty to the charge or to the
charges or they’ve been found guilty by a jury or by a judge, meaning the case is essentially closed. The matter or the question
is to whether or not there’s guilt or whether there’s any question about that it’s settled. At this point in time the judge
is now sentencing somebody. And at this stage a letter to the judge can be very helpful. In many situations judges
have some discretion. They can give somebody
sort of a presumptive, middle of the line sentence. They can give somebody
an aggravated sentence, a very kind of increased maximum sentence, or they can reduce it down to a minimum or even a mitigated sentence. They have some discretion
in that spectrum there. So this is where sometimes
letters can be very helpful and so this video is for that purpose. It’s really for people
who want to write letters on behalf of somebody who
has already been convicted or found guilty or pled guilty to a crime, and now we’re asking the judge to give him a better sentence. So really when this is most relevant. Otherwise the letters to the judge just really don’t do much of anything and are generally not advised. So let’s run through
some of the key points that we wanna make sure that are in every single letter that goes to the judge. Number one, your name. You’re gonna be writing
a letter to the judge, you wanna make sure that
your name is in there. Your properly identified. Don’t call yourself Joe,
call yourself Joseph Smith. Whatever the name is you wanna make sure that that’s all out there. Make sure it’s a full name. You also want to make sure you identify the relationship to the defendant so don’t just say “I
know John, this is Joe I know John from Starbucks
but we have a relationship. This is how. We went to grade school together and middle school and college. Our kids are on the
same little league team. We coach Pop Warner together.” Whatever it is, you wanna
make sure that relationship is established so that
the judge can immediately see what the connection is. Family, friends, husband, wife, those are all very good connections. You want to make sure
that that is in there. The other thing you want to focus on is the defendant’s good points. So the person who was
convicted of the charge, you wanna make sure you’re talking about only their good points,
none of the bad stuff. Leave all that out. So when you’re talking
about this person you say, “Hey, I know John he’s this, he’s this, he’s this, he’s this.” All good points. Loving father, hard-working employee, he’s a dedicated wife, whatever it is. Whatever the situation
is you want to make sure those are bullet points and they’re all detailed out there. You also want to take
a moment to acknowledge the seriousness of this situation. You want to recognize yes, I know this is a serious offense, I recognize he was convicted of it, we are taking this seriously, I’m taking the time to write a letter, and we know how important this is. Then you want to
establish how you’re going to help that person. Really explain your willingness to support that person throughout the entirety of whatever the sentence is going to be. You want to explain to the judge when this person is done
after this case is over, this person has a place to come home to, this person has a home, this person has somebody who’s going to transport them to work or to school. This person has somebody who’s going to help them find a job. Whatever it is, whatever
that person needs, a twelve step substance abuse program, get them into rehab, get them to see a counselor, whatever those are you want to make sure that the judge can see that. The judge sees there is
a community of people, there is a person who’s
writing this letter who is acknowledging, that they are willing
and they’re available to help this person through
whatever’s necessary. That shows the judge that there is a lot of weight there, there’s a lot
of heft behind this letter, and it shows the judge
that there’s a community out there to support this person. It’s all very important stuff. Couple other things I left off here, you wanna make sure you’re
addressing the right judge. So most people are assigned to a judge and there’s a sentencing judge, you wanna make sure the
letter is going to that judge. You wanna make sure it’s
addressed appropriately. Make sure it includes
the proper salutation, Honorable Judge. You wanna make sure that it’s going to the right court. Obviously in those types of things. Those are things that our office of course checks, as well as grammar, punctuation, format, all of those things are important. You wanna make sure it’s legible, you don’t wanna make sure it’s you know, hand-written on the back of a
napkin or something like that. Make sure this is
appropriate, it’s formal, it’s going to a judge
and the judges decision has a very big impact on this rest of this person’s life. Some things that we don’t want to do in any one of these letters. Number one, you don’t
wanna bad mouth the judge, you don’t wanna bad
mouth the court system, you don’t wanna bad mouth the prosecutors, or the police. That’s all done and over. This person has been convicted, the case as far as that
goes is now closed. You want to now just address
what the judge can do. You don’t wanna- the judge cannot go in and
change the judicial system. The judge can’t fire the
whole police department. The judge can’t give you reparations for the time this has caused you, or the hardship this has
caused you personally. The judge really doesn’t
have a lot of authority to do much of anything about any of that. So you wanna keep it focused, keep it focused on the
defendant’s good points, don’t use this opportunity to kind of vent your rage at the justice system. The next thing you
wanna do is like I said, stay away from the bad points. So leave out the bad points, leave out any social problems that this person has. There may be situations where a person has overcome some pretty serious trials and tribulations
and those may be relevant and those may be useful, but we recommend that,
there’s a general rule you leave that stuff out. You don’t wanna say “Hey, this individual is
now on his third marriage but he’s got two kids
from the prior marriages that if he goes to prison he’s not gonna be able to care for them, or he’s not gonna be able to support his out of wedlock children from whatever.” You wanna leave all that social stuff out of it. Judge may take a look at
any of that stuff and say, “Okay this person has a
pattern of being irresponsible or this person has a history of conflating the traditional norms of society.” And so you wanna make sure
that that stuff is out. It’s just not relevant at this point. The other thing that is important, we see this a lot, is you can’t ask the judge
to do impossible things. The judge is legally bound
to do certain things. As I mentioned at the
beginning of the video, the judge does not have the authority to just dismiss most cases. The judge does not have the authority to reduce one charge into another charge. They just don’t have the
legal ability to do that. What they can do is operate within the confines of the rules, within the confines of
the sentencing parameters. And so you wanna make
sure you’re not asking them to do something illegal, something they have no
legal ability to do. You wanna make sure that you understand what you’re requesting
and make that request or make that pitch. Not ask them to do something illegal. So these are the general guidelines. This can be very powerful stuff, right? This is not just one simple letter, this is very powerful. Judges do read these by enlarge. My opinion is most of them do read them and they can go a long way. You don’t wanna make it twenty-five pages, you wanna keep it short,
concise, and to the point so that the judge can look
at it and give it the weight that he or she believes it deserves. The other thing that can be very powerful is if you have a stack of these things. And so in certain situations, we will have people that we work with start working on that
immediately from day one. We say we need to really start beefing up our what’s called mitigation. We want letters, we want recommendations, we want to really have a big file of different letters from everybody throughout the community that we can just take up to the judge and
just throw a phone book full of letters right
on their desk and say “This is how much support this person has. This is how much impact this person has on the community. Look at all these many
dozens and dozens of people who care about of this individual to the point where they took time out of their day to write a letter.” This is all very powerful
stuff and when a judge can see that he or she will then know that that person upon being sentenced, is going to go back out into the community and have a tremendous mesh
of support across the board. So I hope this helpful. If you’d like to discuss it further, if you find yourself in this
situation where you believe you have to plead guilty, if you’ve already pled guilty, if you’re watching this video on behalf of somebody you love or care about, these are the general rules but if you’d like some help on it, if you wanna get our thoughts on how this process might impact your case or what the maximums and minimums are, how the logistics work, give our office a call we
offer free case evaluations, we’re happy to sit down with you and make sure you have a plan on this stuff moving forward. Thanks for watching.

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