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Letters of Apology in Criminal & Driving Cases

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Writing a letter of apology can help persuade the court to treat you more leniently when you are being sentenced for a criminal or traffic offence.

A letter of apology shows the court that you realise the seriousness of your charges and are truly sorry for your actions.

There is no magic formula to writing a letter of apology. It should be from your heart, so a lawyer can only guide you generally.

However, here are a few basic tips:

  • Address the letter to ‘Your Honour’.
  • Make sure it’s typed or that your handwriting is very neat.
  • Make sure it’s signed and dated.
  • Say why you’re writing the letter eg: ‘I am writing this letter to express my sincere remorse for my irresponsible and dangerous actions’.
  • Accept full responsibility eg: ‘There was no excuse for my actions and I accept full responsibility for what I’ve done’.
  • Say something about yourself, eg ‘I’ve worked hard for many years and never been in trouble with police. I’m a family man with two young children and would never want to be a bad influence on them. I recognise I have been a bad role model through my conduct’.
  • Say something about your arrest, eg ‘I was arrested in front of my friends and family, which was humiliating. I had to tell my wife about this and face her disappointment’.
  • Say something about steps you’ve taken since the offence eg ‘Since this incident, I have [spoken to my counselor, psychologist] or [undertaken research] or [undertaken the Traffic Offender Program] and I have come to understand the impact upon the community of my decision to [buy drugs, or drink drive etc] and the danger to which I exposed myself and others.

For drug cases, you may wish to add something like:

‘Through my decision to buy drugs I have inadvertently supported the drug trade and all the negative aspects that go with it, including broader criminal activity and community harm.

In terms of the personal danger, I did not know exactly what these particular pills contained and I could easily have been in a hospital emergency ward, or even dead, due to the potentially lethal cocktail of substances they may have contained’.

For driving cases, you may add:

‘The Traffic Offender Program drove home the truly dangerous nature of my conduct.

I was lucky not to have hit and killed another motorist, or pedestrian, or child and put them and their family through the consequences of my irresponsible conduct.

The presenters at the program included [a man who suffered brain injury after being hit by a drunk driver, or a paramedic who showed us the aftermath of collisions caused by drunk drivers, or a man whose daughter died after being hit by a drunk driver].

I have vowed never again to engage in such dangerous conduct and to take steps to ensure I never again drive after having even one alcoholic drink’.

  • You can explain the possible consequences of criminal conviction eg:

(i) ‘I have had a lot of time to reflect on what the potential impact of my criminal act upon my present job and my future, and it could severely impact on both…’.

You should give examples of what your job / career require, eg

(ii) ‘My present job requires me to be conviction free and I am afraid that a criminal conviction could cause me to lose my job’ OR

(iii) ‘I must declare every year that I have no criminal convictions and, if I have a conviction my position will be reviewed and I could be dismissed’ OR

(iv) ‘My job requires me to undertake overseas travel on a regular basis and I am afraid that a criminal conviction might prevent me from fulfilling my work obligations, and cause me to lose my job’ OR

(v) ‘I am a student studying Nursing and I fear that all my efforts have gone to waste through my foolish criminal act, because registration as a Nurse requires stringent background checks and I may be refused registration due to a criminal conviction. I am also required to obtain a police check before clinical placements and I may not be able to fulfil that component of my degree’….

  • For driving cases, you should explain the impact of a loss of licence eg:

(i) ‘As part of my job, I am required to travel to see clients at businesses throughout the Sydney Metropolitan area on a daily basis’ OR

(ii) ‘As a tradesman, I need to drive tools and equipment to various sites every day and I cannot do this without my licence. I am the breadwinner in my family and am very concerned that we won’t be able to pay my mortgage if I can’t fulfill my work obligations’.

Your examples should be personal, honest and accurate.

Finally, you should not tell the magistrate or judge what to do eg “I need you to give me a section 10 dismissal or conditional release order and allow me to stay conviction-free and keep driving”.

That decision is entirely up to the magistrate or judge.

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