If intending to plead guilty or you’re found guilty for a criminal or traffic offence, then preparing a compelling apology letter for the Judge to read before a sentence is imposed can significantly improve your chances of getting the best possible result in court on sentence.
An apology letter is a good way of showing the Judge that you are honestly and truly sorry for your offending behaviour, and that you understand the seriousness of what you did.
Letterhead here if possible i.e. ABC Pty Ltd
To: The Presiding Local Court Magistrate or District Court Judge
Name the specific court I.e. Wollongong Local Court
GENERAL TOPICS TO BE COVERED
- Outline your acceptance of guilt and responsibility for the offence.
- Outline your remorse and insight into the offence. I.e. “I regret my behaviour and understand that it is a serious offence that caused harm/could have caused significant harm. It is important to acknowledge any harm or loss that was either caused or could have been caused to yourself or others.”
- For driving offences: you may acknowledge the seriousness of your driving offence, the actual harm or potential harm caused. You may outline experiences of any of the presenters of the traffic offender’s program.
- For drug offences: You may outline your understanding of the real and potential harm drugs have on the end user and the community. You may include the fact that these drugs have unknown ingredients which may be lethal, causing deaths. You may also include an acknowledgment, that your drug offence has contributed to the illegal drug trade.
- For fraud offences: you may acknowledge the loss suffered by the victim and community. If you have paid back the money taken, then outline how much and when it was paid back. It is a good idea to have evidence of any repayments made.
- For assault offences: you may acknowledge the actual or potential harm caused by your actions to reflect your understanding as to the seriousness of the offence.
- Outline that you will never re–offend. It is important to give the court re assurance about this.
- Outline the embarrassment you felt from reflecting on your behaviour. Also outline the shame experienced in disclosing the offence to those close to you in life I.e. family, friends, employer or work colleagues.
- Note down your age.
- Outline your current employment:
- Brief outline of your role
- How long you have been working here for
- How long you have worked in this industry for
- How hard you’ve worked to get to this position
- What impact or potential impact a criminal conviction or driver licence disqualification will have on your job and why.
- If you travel for work, outline how often and where you travel to.
- If you require a security licence or security clearance checks for work then give a brief outline of this and how a conviction will or is likely to affect this.
- If your role is subject to criminal background checks then briefly outline how often this occurs and impact a conviction will or can have on your job.
- If your employer requires you to have no convictions as a policy of the company then outline this with evidence from your employer or employment contract if possible.
- If your job requires a driver licence to fulfill the role then briefly outline this with reasons why. Also outline how often you travel and the destinations you travel to. Also outline the impact on your employer if you were to be disqualified from driving I.e. how hard it will be to replace your role, and any approximate financial loss suffered to the employer.
- If a criminal conviction will likely result in your dismissal then outline the real potential consequences of a dismissal on your role to your employer. It is good to also have some other evidence of this by way of a letter from your employer to back this up.
- If applicable, outline your personal commitments, such as family or friends who depend on you to maintain your job to earn an income or who depend on you to maintain a driver licence to drive him/her around to certain locations for medical or other compelling reasons.
- Outline any effects of a criminal conviction or disqualification on:
- Your ability to get a job; or
- Getting into a course; or
- To get a registration in a professional body as a requisite to practice in a certain profession
- Outline any charity contributions you have made.
- Outline any mental health or physical health issues you have.
- Outline your current financial situation, include the extent of repayments and any other significant expenses you have (not electricity and water type bills). Outline the people who rely on your current income.
- Outline any rehabilitative steps taken by you to give re-assurance to the Judge that you will not re-offend. Here, you may outline treatment you have been attending to address any mental health, drug addiction, anger management, gambling addictions, domestic violence, or other factors that have contributed to you committing the offence in the first place.
- For driving offence: you may mention what you learnt from completing the traffic offender’s program.
- For drug offences: you may outline the progress of your recovery from undergoing drug counselling or completing the court-initiated MERIT program.
- For assault offences: you may outline the progress you have made from undergoing anger management, or drug and alcohol counselling.
- For fraud or larceny offences: you may outline any drug and alcohol, or gambling counselling you have undertaken and its progress. You may also outline any steps taken to refund any money to the victim.
- If you have a mental illness which contributed to your offence: you may outline the progress of your treatment with your treating psychologist, and how often you have been attending this.
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Samples for Specific Criminal Offences
Samples for Specific Traffic Offences
- Your apology letter should generally be within 1 page in length. You should be able to briefly outline all the relevant points expressed above in one page. Judges and Magistrates will generally allocate a certain amount of time on any one case as they will have many cases to get through the day.
- A typed apology letter is preferred. Ensure it is signed and dated before giving it to the Court.
- It is preferred to hand the Judge or Magistrate with the original apology letter. Not a copy.
- The letter should make sense and be in your own words.
- It’s highly recommended to get a criminal or traffic lawyer to review your apology letter before handing it to the Judge.
- Always refer to the Magistrate or Judge as “Your Honour”.
The following is a guide on what to avoid saying in an apology letter to the Magistrate or Judge:
- Avoid telling the Magistrates or Judge as to what to do. I.e. avoid saying, “I deserve a section 10 or conditional release order without conviction” or “I should get a section 10 dismissal for this offence” or “Don’t send me to prison”, or “my traffic record is a good one”.
- Avoid giving excuses for the offence. Your outcome will be much better if after pleading guilty, you also follow through by owning up to the offence in your apology letter as well.
- Avoid coming across as though you are distancing yourself from your offending behaviour by shifting blame away from you. Doing this can result in a harsher penalty as it reflects a lack of insight and remorse.
- Avoid copying the wording of others apology letters. A Judge or Magistrate will be able to figure this out quickly given, like us, they have also seen thousands of apology letters. Use your own words. This is an opportunity to tell the Judge or Magistrate about your true thoughts and feelings in your own words and style.
- I write this apology letter to express my deepest regret and…
- I accept responsibility for…
- I understand the seriousness of the offence…
- I realise that my actions caused/could have caused…
- I have disclosed my offence to…
- What I have learned from completing the Traffic Offenders Program/MERIT program is…
- I will never repeat this behaviour…
Our criminal and traffic lawyers have over 25-years–experience in guiding clients to preparing powerful apology letters with a proven track record of successfully:
- Avoiding criminal convictions, by getting section 10 dismissals or Conditional Release Orders without conviction.
- Avoiding licence disqualification periods and demerit points for driving offences.
- Avoiding prison sentences for serious criminal and traffic offences.
- Getting serious criminal and traffic offences withdrawn early or downgraded.