If intending to plead guilty to a drug offence, your sentencing outcome in court can be significantly improved with well written good character reference letters for drug offence, including drug possession and drug supply offences.
Sample character reference letter for drug offences
Typed letterhead here i.e. QRS Pty Ltd
To: The Presiding Local Court Magistrate or District Court Judge
Name the specific court I.e. Parramatta Local Court
GENERAL TOPICS TO BE COVERED
- As the referee, outline your name, age, occupation and how you know the person you are writing this letter about (the offender).
- Express how long you have known the offender for, and how you got to know him/her.
- Briefly outline how often you and him/her contact or communicate with each other.
- Briefly express your knowledge about the drug offence that he/she committed. Outline whether he/she told you and your shock when disclosed to you.
- Insight, Remorse, Shame & Prospects of rehabilitation:
- For insight, you may outline whether the offender has expressed an acceptance of responsibility, acknowledgment of the seriousness of the offence and harm/potential harm caused from drugs to the community. For example, “Bob acknowledged that by committing this offence he has contributed to the drug problem in this nation which has destroyed lives. He also understands the potential lethal ingredients in these drugs which people are not aware of before consuming them.”
- For remorse and shame, you may outline whether the offender has expressed regret for his/her behaviour with shame. You may outline whether he accepts full responsibility. For example, “When Bob told me about his drug offence, I can tell that he was ashamed and took full responsibility.”
- For prospects of rehabilitation, you may briefly outline whether he/she has taken any active steps to address a factor that contributed to committing the offence. This may be by the offender having undertaken treatment, counselling or program for drug and alcohol or mental illness. For example, you may briefly outline whether he/she has commenced treatment with a psychologist or drug & alcohol counselor, SMART program or MERIT program to address a personal issue. You may also outline whether he/she has shown progress or expressed any progressive gains made from doing this.
- Good Character:
- Outline what you think of him/her. You may provide one or two examples of what you’ve seen him/her do to demonstrate this good character. I.e. “Bob has always been caring and responsible. For example, just last week, I saw Bob show an incredible part of his good nature when he…”
- It is recommended, but not required, to disclose the drug offence to the referee. If disclosed, it may be more powerful for the referee to outline that despite committing the drug offence, the referee still considers him/her to be of good character.
- If he/she has never committed a drug offence in the past, you may briefly outline your view that his/her offending behaviour is out-of-character.
- If he/she has a previous drug offence, you may outline your awareness of this fact.
- If applicable, outline any charity contributions that he/she has made or currently makes.
- If aware of his/her personal commitments, you may briefly outline details of this. For example, if you are his/her partner, you may briefly outline whether you and/or the children financially rely on his/her income or other support. You may also outline any significant expenses and the extent of contributions made by each person.
- If you are the offender’s employer or colleague, briefly outline his/her:
- Title of role and brief description of job.
- Reputation and period of time he/she has been in this role and industry for.
- Any unique or difficult to acquire skills he/she possess for this role which would be difficult or impossible to replace.
- If possible, outline how much revenue he/she makes the business monthly or yearly.
- Extent of hard work he/she has put in to get to this position.
- f applicable, outline whether he/she supervises or manages people in this role.
- A brief outline of what impact a criminal conviction will or will likely have on his/her job with reasons why. If a drug conviction will result in dismissal it’s important to express this. For example:
- If the job requires criminal background checks, security clearances or security licence requirements, its recommended to outline details of this with some evidence from the governing body that regulates those permits or licences.
- For government jobs, its recommended to outline what impact a drug conviction will likely have on the role and/or for further progression in that field or any government job in that field.
- If the job requires the attainment of a certain licence or certificate to practice in that profession, its recommended to outline details of this with some evidence to back this up from the governing body that regulates this.
- If the job requires international traveling, it’s recommended that you outline brief details of this, locations travelled to and frequency of this occurring.
- If the job requires a driver licence and the offender is charged with a drug driving offence, its recommended to briefly outlining the requirement for a driver licence, how often he/she travels and locations travelled to.
- It’s also recommended to briefly state, that if required to, you are prepared to attend court to give evidence about this. Also outline your postal address. Generally, a referee is not normally required to attend court.
Basic Rules About Character Reference Letters
- Each letter is recommended to be no more than one page long. A Magistrate or Judge will have only a limited time to spend on your case as they’re required to get through a large case load each day.
- Each letter should be typed, signed and dated with only relevant information.
- Hand up the original letters to the Magistrate or Judge, not copies.
- Be sure to proof read each letter for any errors, including spelling, grammar. Ensure it makes sense.
- Refer to the Magistrate or Judge as, “Your Honour”.
- Use the company or business letterhead wherever possible.
- Stick to using your own sentences and words.
Who can write a character reference letter?
For drug offences, a good character reference letter can come from an employer, colleague, friend, family, partner, charity organisation and/or religious organisation.
It’s important to carefully pick the most appropriate referee who will be best able to put across the relevant
points that you wish the Magistrate or Judge to consider in order to get the best sentence result in court.
The person you choose as a referee will depend on the type of drug offence and the offender’s individual
An experienced drug lawyer can best guide you.
For example, if the offender’s partner will suffer hardship in the event the offender is convicted and dismissed from his/her job, or sent to prison, it’s recommended to get a character letter from the partner to outline details of this.
How many character reference letters can I use in court?
While there isn’t a rule as to how many character reference letters you can hand up to a Judge or Magistrate on sentence, its generally recommended to hand up your best 2-4.
Judges and Magistrates are required to hear and get through many cases in a day. This means that they each have a limited period of time to spend on each case. You’re likely to get a better response by handing up less documents containing relevant information outlined in a short and concise way.
It’s important to ensure that each character reference letter you hand up does not duplicate points. Each letter should communicate a separate relevant point for the Judge or Magistrate to consider in your favour.
In some more complex cases, you may need to use more character reference letters in court. This may be to ensure that all significant and relevant points are made to the Magistrate or Judge to properly consider the most appropriate sentence for your case.
You should seek the advice and guidance of an experienced drug lawyer If you require more documents to be used in your sentence.
Is the character reference provider required to attend court?
The person providing the character reference letter (‘referee’) is not normally required to attend a local court sentence for a drug offence.
If the sentence in respect to a drug offence is being dealt with in the District Court, the referee of a character reference letter will not be required to attend court to give evidence unless the prosecution require it. This depends on the complexity of issues in a drug case and whether there are any contested points made in the letter you wish to use in court.
Sometimes it’s better to use an affidavit rather than a character reference letter in court.
An affidavit is sworn evidence in a legal document to reflect what is said in the character reference letter.
Because an affidavit is considered sworn evidence, it can be more effective and powerful than a character reference letter to convince a Magistrate or Judge as to the points you make in it.
The author or referee of an affidavit will not be required to attend court unless the prosecution object to the contents of it, which is unlikely in the local court.
What to avoid saying in a character reference letter
- Be careful not to sound arrogant or over-confident.
- Avoid telling the Magistrate or Judge what to do, or how to do their job. For example, avoid saying, “I think you should give him/her a section 10 dismissal or Conditional Release Order without conviction for this drug offence” or “do not sentence him/her to prison”.
- Avoid saying things that can be interpreted as distancing the offender from his drug offence. Avoid shifting blame or giving excuses for him/her for committing the drug offence. This will only show a lack of insight and remorse for the offence which will likely cause a heavier sentence.
- Avoid copying other people’s words. The referee should express points in his/her own words.
How to start your sentence
- “Your Honour, when Bob told me about his drug offence, I saw the regret and shame from him. He has certainly taken this very seriously…”
- “Bob understood the seriousness of his drug offence. He even discussed the harm drugs do to our community by destroying lives. He acknowledged that these drugs may have lethal ingredients in them unknown to people taking them…”
- “I have known Bob for over 5 years now, and I can say that this drug offence came as a shock to me as very un-characteristic…”
- “Bob is normally a giving, caring person which he has shown countless times over the years, including a time when…”
Please note, that as each character reference letter is to be used in court for a Judge or Magistrate to read, its contents must be accurate and true. It is recommended to get an experienced drug lawyer to review it beforehand.
Our team of specialist drug lawyers have over 30-years-experience in drug cases. We have achieved outstanding results across all serious drug charges for over 2 decades, including: