Typed Letterhead if Possible
To: The Presiding Magistrate of the Local Court
GENERAL TOPICS TO BE COVERED
- The offender has disclosed his or her drug offence to you
- There’s no point in saying that you believe the offender is innocent.
- How long you have known the offender & how you came to know each other.
- Your views and thoughts of the offender, and anything specific about him/her.
- It’s advisable to avoid telling the Magistrate how to deal with your drug charge.
- Whether you believe the offender is the sort of person who will commit a drug offence, and whether you think he/she is likely to do it again.
- Expressions of genuine remorse and insight from the offender for the drug offence.
- Where this letter is from the offender’s employer, the employer may express:
- The title or position of the person writing this letter on behalf of the employer; period he/she has been in this role for.
- The offender’s role and position in the company; period of time in this role.
- The employer’s attitude and any policies concerning how the employer deals with employees convicted for drug offences. i.e. if a drug conviction will result in dismissal, then this should be expressed.
- Any conviction background checks conducted in the company; security clearance or working with children check requirements.
- Financial effect on the company if the offender were to be convicted and dismissed.
- the writer’s position in the company, how long you have been working in that position for, whether a drug conviction will or may result in dismissal of your position with the employer; whether background checks are conducted, and how often; whether you are given a high security clearance permit for work and why.
- If letter is from offender’s partner or family, then family member or partner may express:
- Any financial reliability on the offender i.e. offender is the sole income provider
- Any dependants of the offender i.e. children
- Other responsibilities of the offender towards other family members
- Financial commitments i.e. loan or mortgage repayments (this should be backed up with recent copies of bank statements showing income and expenses.
- Where there is drug or alcohol problems, whether the offender is getting treatment for this, and any progress made. i.e. drug/alcohol counselling or psychologist treatment.
- A statement that the writer is prepared to appear in court to give evidence about you if required to do so.
- The writer’s postal address should be included.
Print name of writer
Basic Rules About Character References for Drug Charges
- Each letter should always be typed. If it’s from a business or company, it should be on a letter head.
- letters should be signed and dated by the author/writer.
- The originals should be brought with you to court.
- Each letter should be addressed to either “Your Honour, or “the Presiding Magistrate”.
- The letters do not have to be in formal writing. each should be in the writer’s own words.
- You should give a copy of each signed and dated letter to your lawyer before the court date.
- Each letter should be reviewed by an experienced drug lawyer before it is given to the court.
- Each letter should be no more than 1 page. Magistrate’s read lots of documents in a day and have limited court time. They are already pressed for time and need to get through a busy list each day. To make sure that the Magistrate reads every word, keep these letters to a page, and include in it only relevant information discussed in this guide.
What Your ‘Referee’ Should Say About Him/Herself
- As the writer of this letter, you should express what you do for a living, and how long you have been doing this for.
- Any positive community contributions made. i.e. charity work. Be careful not to sound overconfident or arrogant.
- Opinions, and insight on drugs. Including the impact it has on the community.
- This shouldn’t be more than 2 sentences long.
What the ‘Referee’ Should Say About the Offender
- How long you have known the offender for, and how you both met each other.
- How often you see or contact the offender.
- Something about the offender’s personality and behaviour. i.e. “I consider Bob to be a very responsible and honest person who cares for others around him.” Or, “Bob is very hard working and passionate at his job, he is always punctual and professional who contributes a lot into his role.” You may also comment about whether the offender is community minded and whether you believe he is likely to commit a drug offence again.
- Any family or work responsibilities the offender has. How serious the offender takes those responsibilities.
- Whether you believe the offender will ever commit a further drug offence again, especially after having been through the police and court process.
What the ‘Referee’ Should Say About the Offence, Offender’s Attitude to the Offence and Insight
- Whether the offender has expressed his insight and remorse for the drug offence. Insight can include, an understanding of the fact that the offender now realises that those drugs could have contained substances with potential to kill; and the impact drugs have onto the community.
- Whether you believe that the offender understands the seriousness of the drug offence, and is taking it seriously. If the offender has a drug addiction, then explain what he/she is doing to address it i.e. attending drug counselling, change of attitude to drugs, attending a psychologist for treatment- whether you believe treatment appears to be working well.
- If the offender has a previous drug offence, then there is no point to say that this drug offence is out of character.
- If the offender has no previous drug offence(s), then you may state that this drug offence is completely out of character.
- Any shame the offender has expressed to you after disclosing the drug offence; any shame expressed by the offender for committing the drug offence; going through the charge, arrest and court process.
- Whether the offender has expressed his concerns as to the impact a drug conviction will/likely have on the offender’s employment.
- You can express any concerns the offender has expressed to you concerning his/her abilities to continue meeting any financial commitments such as mortgage or loan repayments, especially if the offender is a sole income provider in his/her family.
Remember, that this good character reference sample guide is only a guide.
The contents of the letters should be accurate and true – as they will be handed up to a court to read.
An experienced drug lawyer can guide you and review each good character reference letter before handing it up to the court.
Finally, each letter should have the style and words of the writer/author of the letter.
Tip: If a drug conviction will affect your job, it’s a good idea to look at your employment contract to find any clauses concerning convictions. This can be very useful in court in your favour.