Make a positive impact with personal reference letters | Criminal Defence Articles by Tushar K. Pain

Letters of personal reference are typically used in the sentencing process. They provide the court insight into you and your reputation as a member of the community. A few good letters of personal reference can make a tremendously positive impact upon your case. These letters may also be useful in other aspects of your case. To make a positive impression through letters of personal reference, consider obtaining a minimum of three.

Here is an outline for drafting a letter of personal reference:

1. The letter should be typed, dated, and signed in blue ink at the bottom.
2. The author’s full name and address should be included.
3. The letter provided to your lawyer should be the original.
4. The letter should actually be written by the person who has signed it – resist any offer from those you have asked for a letter to put their signature to something that you have drafted yourself.
5. The author should state his or her age and occupation.
6. The author should state for how long and what capacity he or she has known you.
7. The author should state that he or she is aware of the offence that you are facing or have admitted to committing and what his or her reaction is.
8. The author should, where appropriate, make comment on the effects he or she has observed this matter to have upon you. For instance, if the writer believes that you are remorseful, then he or she should say so and state why he or she believes it to be.
9. The author should, where appropriate, comment on your positive reputation and character. For instance, if the author believes that you are an otherwise honest and decent person and doesn’t expect you to ever find yourself in trouble with the law again, he or she should say so.

Sample Letters

The following two letters were submitted on behalf of Anwar Param at his sentencing hearing. Anwar had pleaded guilty to assaulting his wife. Believing her to be involved with another man, Anwar punched his wife. The Crown was asking that Anwar be sent to jail for 30 days. I was opposing this and seeking a probationary sentence. In the end, Anwar did not have to go to jail. He was placed on probation, ordered to maintain his counselling and was allowed to return to his wife.

1517 Oakleaf Drive
Ajax, Ontario
L2V 5T5

May 16, 1999

The Honourable Judge K. Jones:

My name is Roy Shobha and I am a Canadian citizen residing in Ajax with my wife and three children since 1980. I am employed with the Ontario Government as an accountant since 1980.

I have known Mr. Anwar Param for the last 16 years, and we have shared a variety of activities such as parties, sports, picnics, and traveling within Canada. Also, I have known Mr. Param to be a prudent, conscientious, hardworking and a caring person. After he got married, he worked very hard at several jobs to establish himself, and his family. In 1997, Mr. Param bought a house in Ajax and has settled very well in a new environment next to myself and my family. Mr. Param is very proud of his family and has endeavoured to be a major provider in the home for his wife, two children and his 74 year old widowed mother.

Due to his present situation, I have been maintaining his property, i.e., mowing the lawn, assisting with grocery shopping and his children’s activities. I make arrangement for him to see his children at my place. He has confessed to me that he loves his wife and children and his mother very dearly and his only wish is to be with them very soon.

If you require any further information, please contact me at (416) 555-1282.

Thank you.

Roy Shobha
88 Fieldstone Crescent
Markham, Ontario
L5D 9L5

May 14, 1999

The Honourable Judge K. Jones:

My name is Sameer Kumar and I live in Richmond Hill with my loving wife and three children since 1987. I am the owner of my own company, Sameer Clothing: I import Indian clothing from India to sell in Canada.

I have known Mr. Anwar Param for 25 years, he is my brother-in-law, and a real good friend. We share our holidays together and always meet with our big family for such occasion as dinners, birthdays, holy days, etc. Mr. Param to me is a hardworking, loving, and caring person who tries to succeed in everything he puts his mind to. After his marriage in 1990, Mr. Param has worked at several jobs for his family to have great opportunities in Canada. Mr. Param has settled down in a home, purchased in 1997, by himself, in an environment where his two kids could be raised with care in Ajax. Anwar is very proud of his family and misses them more and more everyday.

Due to Mr. Param’s present situation, he has been attending classes for anger management for domestic assault at the Family Service Association, tel: (416) 555-9186. This program is voluntary and goes for 18 weeks. He has also been seeing a psychiatrist and has been taking the advice given to heart. I have been keeping in touch with Anwar everyday to hear about his productive day and what his activities were. Anwar arranges to see his kids and his mother and wishes to be back in their lives in the near future.

If you need any further information, please contact me at (905) 555-6782.

Thank you.

Sameer Kumar

My client, Dwayne Jaffar, had pleaded guilty to importing a narcotic. He was caught attempting to smuggle nearly one kilogram of cocaine into Canada. The Crown was seeking a penitentiary sentence and I was asking the judge not to send my client to jail. For the offence that Dwayne had committed, a penitentiary sentence was the norm. Keeping him out of jail would be extremely difficult. In the end, Dwayne was not sentenced to jail. The following letter of personal reference was relied upon at his sentencing hearing.

215 Bilker Road
Apartment #556
Toronto, Ontario
M3J 2X9

June 13, 1998

To the Judge:

This is a letter by I, Arthur Ritchie, on behalf of Dwayne Jaffar. I have personally known Dwayne for 12 years now. I have witnessed his maturation from a boy into a man first hand. Dwayne and I went through high school together. It was there in school where I saw Dwayne’s character. Dwayne, never in his whole secondary career, got into any trouble. As a matter of fact, I watched Dwayne through his hard work and positive attitude, excel academically. In his four years at our school, he would give his spare time to help set up for school functions and events. Dwayne also devoted his spare time to tutor me as well as a couple of others that had difficulties in mathematics. And since high school, Dwayne has helped me on countless occasions. I hold Dwayne responsible for me acquiring my three job positions at M.C. Accounting, Johnstone Temps, and my current position now at Franklin Bookkeeping Services. Now being that Dwayne did in fact break the law, due to what I feel was a bad influence, I fell that prison time will not help Dwayne in the least bit. I don’t just state this due to our friendship but I truly believe this to be true. Taking away Dwayne’s freedom now, at this point in his life, being that he is now attending college will literally destroy him. It is to my understanding that prison terms are laid down to those that either lead a criminal life style and or those that show that rehabilitation is needed. Placing Jermaine in such an environment with negative influences in this atmosphere will just teach him how to become a criminal. That is why I feel that it would be in Dwayne’s best interest to stay out of jail. It is in the interest of the accused to serve a punishment that will not affect his educational path to success. Dwayne’s character is of a dignified, trustworthy and respectable man. I ask that you do not change the direction of Dwayne’s life based on a mistake.

Arthur Ritchie