A properly written good character reference letter for a drink driving offence can result in a much better court result if intending to plead guilty to a drink driving charge
Sample character reference letter for drink driving offences
Letterhead here if possible i.e. OPQ 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 age, name and occupation, include how you have come to know the person you are writing this letter for.
- How long you have known him/her for.
- Briefly outline how often you have contact with him/her.
- Outline if his/her drink driving offence has been disclosed to you. I.e. “Brad told me about his drink driving offence and I could see he was very ashamed…”
- Shame, Remorse, Insight and Prospects of Rehabilitation:
- Outline whether he/she has expressed or demonstrated embarrassment from disclosing and for committing the offence of drink driving to you.
- Insight & remorse can be demonstrated by outlining:
- Whether he/she has clearly acknowledged the seriousness of drink driving, accepted responsibility and acknowledges the seriousness and harm/potential harm caused. For example, “Bob has expressed to me his concern as to the harm/potential harm drink driving has on him and others who use the road. I believe that he truly regrets his behaviour and accepts responsibility”.
- Steps taken towards rehabilitation is important to convince a Judge or Magistrate that he/she will not likely re-offend for the protection of the community-which can lead to a better outcome. Rehabilitation can be demonstrated if the offender has taken active steps soon after committing the offence by undertaking a program, counselling or treatment to address a factor that contributed to the offence. For example:
- If the offender has completed the Traffic Offenders Program: you, as the referee may express your knowledge of this and whether he/she has expressed gaining any insight as to road safety from it.
- If a mental illness, alcohol or drug problem contributed to his/her decision to drink and drive on that occasion that you are aware of- if applicable, you may outline that he/she has been and continues to undergo treatment from a psychologist or alcohol, drugs counsellor/AA/NA etc. You may outline whether he/she has expressed any benefits gained by doing this. Do not express your opinion as to his/her mental state unless you are a registered and qualified psychologist or psychiatrist.
- Good Character:
- You may briefly outline an example of the extent of care he/she normally takes to avoid driving after consuming alcohol in the past. I.e. “Bob always has a plan B before going out on a night he knows he will be drinking alcohol, for example…”
- Outline your view of him/her. Briefly express your opinion of his/her good character. You may give one or two examples to demonstrate this. I.e. “Having known Bob for over 20-years, drink driving is completely out of character for him. I consider Bob an honest, hard-working and community minded person that won’t do this again.”
- If he/she has disclosed the drink driving offence to you (recommended), you may outline whether you consider him/her to be of good character despite committing the current offence.
- If he/she has no previous drink driving offences, you may express your surprise when informed about his/her drink driving offence.
- If he/she has previously committed a drink driving offence, you may outline your knowledge of this. However, it is recommended not to express that it is un-characteristic.
- If applicable, you may outline your knowledge as to any charity contributions he/she has made.
- Outline his/her personal commitments:
- For example, if you are a family member or partner, you may outline whether you depend or rely on him/her to drive and why. You may also express if applicable that because you do not work, you and any children rely on his income. You may also outline how child responsibilities are shared between you and him/her I.e. school, daycare etc.
- If you are his/her employer or colleague, you may briefly outline his/her work details. This includes:
- Job role and title.
- Whether he/she is in charge of supervising or overlooking others in the organisation.
- If possible, outline what approximate revenue he/she generates the business on a monthly or yearly basis.
- Briefly outline his/her professionalism, punctuality, reliability, work ethics and reputation in the organisation.
- If he/she requires a driver licence to drive for work then outline details of how often this occurs and the locations travelled in a normal day.
- Outline what impact a licence disqualification and/or drink driving conviction will have on his/her employment. If applicable, you may outline that a drink driving conviction and disqualification will result in dismissal from the role.
- How long he/she has worked here for.
- Whether he/she possess any unique or difficult to obtain skills that will make it difficult to replace and why.
- Outline if there are criminal background checks, security clearances or security licence requirements for the role. Briefly outline what affect a drink driving conviction will have on meeting these requirements. It is recommended to have some evidence to back this up as such requirements will come from other professional bodies who issue the licence or require a background check.
- If he/she is required to travel internationally, briefly outline how often and which countries.
- If you are his/her employer or colleague, you may briefly outline his/her work details. This includes:
- While you will not normally ever be required to attend court to give evidence, it is recommended to state, that you will be prepared to attend court to give evidence if required to. Also include your postal address.
Basic Rules About Character Reference Letters
- Each letter is recommended to be limited to no more than 1 page in length. Ensure it addresses the main points of the case and includes only relevant information. There will be limited time for a Judge or Magistrate to read the documents concerning your case.
- Ensure each letter is signed, dated and typed by the referee who drafted it.
- Hand up the signed and dated original reference letters to the Judge or Magistrate, not copies.
- Ensure each letter makes sense. Check for any grammatical or spelling errors and ensure it points out only relevant information. It is advisable to have an experience drink driving lawyer to review it.
- Always refer to the Magistrate or Judge as “Your Honour”.
- Include the company letter head if the letter is drafted by an organisation or a person from the organisation/employer.
- The referee should use his/her own words and sentences to express what they wish to say about the offender.
- Avoid duplicating relevant points across more than one character reference letter if using multiple
Who can write a character reference letter?
The individuals who are chosen to provide a good character reference letter for a person who has committed the offence of drink driving will depend on the circumstances of the case. It is recommended to have a drink driving lawyer guide you in this process.
Generally, a character reference letter for drink driving offences can come from the offender’s family member, partner, friends, employer, colleagues or chose charity he/she has contributed to.
It’s important to avoid expressing the same points across multiple character reference letters.
Each letter should address its own unique important points relevant to the particular drink driving case. Why? So that it can be taken into account by the Judge or Magistrate in order to get the best possible result on sentence.
If you have family dependents, including children and a partner who rely on you to earn an income and have a driver licence, then it is recommended to obtain a character reference letter from your partner to outline these relevant points.
If you have a job that requires a driver licence to keep the job- it is recommended to obtain a letter from your
employer outlining this if possible. Alternatively, have a look into the employment contract.
How many character reference letters can I use in court?
While there is no rule about how many drink driving character reference letters can be used in court. It is recommended to use the best 2-4.
While each case will depend on its own particular circumstances, you need to ensure that all relevant points are expressed in the letters without duplication.
Judges and Magistrate have limited time to read all the documents in any one case throughout a day in court. For this reason, to ensure everything is properly considered, you want to ensure all letters are kept as short as possible without any irrelevant information.
Is the character reference provider required to attend court?
Normally the person providing the drink driving character reference letter will not be required to attend court to give evidence if the matter is being sentenced in the local court.
The referee of a character reference letter for a drink driving sentence will be required to attend court if the matter is an appeal in the District Court and the prosecution require the person to attend. This does not normally occur for drink driving cases.
A more effective way for a referee to provide evidence of the drink driving offenders character and other
relevant points is an affidavit.
An affidavit is sworn evidence into a legal document which reflects the same contents of the character reference letter from the referee. Unless the prosecution have an objection to the contents of it, the referee or author of the affidavit will not be required to attend court.
A Magistrate or Judge will normally give more weight to what is said in an affidavit because it is considered sworn evidence than a character reference letter. This can mean a better sentence outcome in court.
What to avoid saying in a character reference letter
- Avoid saying things that come across as being over-confident or arrogant.
- Do not tell the Judge or Magistrate what to do. Avoid saying things such as, “I think Bob should not be convicted for committing this drink driving offence because…” or “Bob deserves a section 10 dismissal or Conditional Release Order without conviction.”
- Do not provide excuses for the person who has committed the drink driving offence. Doing this will show a lack of insight and remorse, which will likely lead to a worse outcome.
- Do not copy the wording of other letters.
How to start your sentence
- “I have known Bob for over 5-years. Over this time he has always been a responsible drinker…”
- “I was surprised to hear that Bob committed this offence. I can see that he was extremely regretful and ashamed of his behaviour…”
- “I believe that Bob has taken his drink driving offence very seriously. He acknowledged the serious potential harm caused to himself and other road users…”
- “I am aware that Bob has completed the traffic offenders program which he considered to be very informative and refreshing. He told me about some of the horrific stories people have suffered…”
Remember, these letters will be given to the Judge or Magistrate to read. It is important to ensure that each
letter is original, accurate and true.
Our team of specialist drink driving lawyers have over 30-years-experience specialising in serious drink driving cases. We have successfully achieved outstanding results, which include:
- Avoiding licence disqualification and demerit points with section 10 dismissals and Conditional Release Orders without convictions.
- Avoiding criminal convictions for drink driving offences.
- Avoiding Imprisonment sentences for serious drink driving offences.
- Getting serious drink driving charges dropped or downgraded early by police.