If you have been charged with a criminal offence and have decided to plead guilty, you may want to consider writing a letter of apology to the judge or magistrate.
Although writing a letter to a judge is not compulsory, expressing your genuine remorse may help you receive a more lenient penalty, particularly if it is reinforced by positive action to address any underlying issues that might have contributed to the offence.
Under what circumstances is it appropriate to write a letter to a judge?
If you have a criminal lawyer representing you, they will be able to advise you as to whether it is appropriate to write a letter of apology to the judge or magistrate presiding over your matter. Some situations where writing a letter could be beneficial include:
- When you want to plead guilty to a criminal offence
- When you want to plead guilty to a major traffic offence such as drink driving
- When you want to request a section 10 dismissal or conditional release order
- When you are seeking a more lenient penalty
- When a criminal conviction or loss of licence would have a serious impact on your life or ability to do your job.
If you do plan to write a letter of apology to a judge, it is important that it is sincere.
Insincere or meaningless letters of apology can end up doing more harm than good.
How can writing a letter of apology benefit my case?
Expressing remorse and demonstrating that you understand the severity of the charges, and the consequences of your actions, indicates that you may be less likely to reoffend in the future.
When judges and magistrates are deciding what sentence to give, they take into account whether you are likely to commit the same offence again.
The less likely it seems that you will reoffend, the more chance you have of receiving a more lenient penalty.
Writing a letter to a judge can also give you the opportunity to explain how a particular penalty would affect you and your family.
If you have been charged with a driving offence, for example, and you depend on driving for your job, writing a letter can be a good way to explain the potential impact of being disqualified from driving.
If you don’t have a lawyer and are representing yourself, it can be difficult to express yourself in a high pressure court situation, and taking the time to write a letter beforehand can make it easier to get your point across without having to worry about missing out any details, or forgetting what you were planning to say.
With a letter you can take your time to get the wording just right, and ensure that all the necessary information is included.
A letter can also allow you to express yourself in a heartfelt manner, which may be difficult in a courtroom full of strangers.
Can my criminal lawyer write a letter to a judge on my behalf?
It is recommended that you write your letter of apology to the judge yourself.
Your defence lawyer will be able to advise you on what should be included, but the wording should be yours rather than someone else’s.
Don’t worry if writing is not your strong suit, as long as your letter is sincere and expresses your remorse it should fulfil its intended purpose.
If you have any questions about the format of a letter to a judge, or any other legal matter, an experienced criminal lawyer can help.