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Character Reference Letter (for Court) Template – Samples

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Character Reference Letter (for Court) Template – Samples

Updated May 17, 2023

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The character reference for court is to provide the Judge a family member, friend, or co-worker with a written statement on the Defendant’s moral or mental qualities. The letter is commonly provided in child custody and/or drunk driving (DUI) occurrences but may be used in any situation needed where the court should hear about the personality and reputation of the Defendant in order to have the case drawn in their favor.

Immigration Character Reference Letter – For someone who is specifically entering the court for immigration purposes.

Table of Contents

Who to Select?

When selecting an individual who will write a character reference, it is important to select someone that has known you for a long period of time and also someone that the court will respect. As an example, it is best if you can get someone from the community like a teacher that has seen you grow as a person to write a good reference to the court.

Drunk Driving (DUI) – If you are in need of a reference for a drunk-driving (DUI) incident maybe it is best to have someone like an employer or close family state how important you are to them. In addition, have them write how you are needed and that any jail time or suspension of your license will put more weight on other people’s shoulders.

Child Custody – If you are in the midst of a custody battle or a general family hearing it would be advised to elect someone who has seen you with your children. In recent years it has been more common to have a psychiatrist oversee the children around the parent and to have them write a formal recommendation to the court. In a family proceeding a letter from a psychiatrist has tremendous pull when it comes to the court ruling in favor of the children’s best interests.


How to Write (Format)

The letter should be a simple 1-page document stating your experience with the recommended individual as well as why you feel the need to provide this reference. Depending on who you are and how the court views you in consideration to the case it may or may not sway the Judge into using the letter in their final assessment.


The introduction should state who you are, how long you’ve known the individual, and why you feel the need to make this recommendation to the court.

Body Paragraph(s)

The body paragraph be your main argument why the recommended individual is a person of high moral character. For example, if you are the employer of the individual it should state how important they are to the workplace and to plead to the Judge to show leniency in this case. Or if it is a child custody lawsuit it should have a family member write how much the kids mean to the recommended individual.


The conclusion should summarize the purpose of the letter and he or she should write their contact information (phone and e-mail) in case the court should want to follow-up on any of the information suggested in the letter.

Sample 1 – For a DUI

1 – The Heading And The Introduction

It is important to keep in mind that a Letter of Reference for a DUI Defendant will be an official document in a court of law. Therefore, make sure that it appears professional and its contents are what you believe to be true.

First, you will need to Identify yourself. This should be done in the upper left-hand corner of the page. Enter your Name and Residential Address on the first three lines of this page.        red circle around personal information of character reference letter authorIt is also imperative that you indicate when this letter was written and submitted. Skip two lines after your Name and Address then, enter the current date. Generally, writing out the name of the Month then entering the numerical Calendar Date and Year is standard.red circle around current date on character reference letter

In some cases, the Defendant’s DUI Attorney may wish to include a Subject Line with the Case Number or to exclude the subject altogether. In this example, we shall assume a somewhat informal Subject line. Report the subject two lines below the date. If using this form as a template, enter the Name of the Defendant on the blank line.red circle around subject line of character reference letter

The Greeting will begin your actual letter. Again, you will need to consult the Defendant or his or her Attorney. In this example, we shall use a formal Greeting. The Greeting should be placed two lines below the Subject Line above. If there will be no Subject Line, then it should be placed two lines below the Date.red circle around "to the honorable judge" in character reference letter

2 – The Introduction Will Set Up The Body Of This Letter

The Introduction should be made up of one or two statements. These statements must contain, the Purpose of this document, the Name of the DUI Defendant, your Relationship to the DUI Defendant, and how long you have known the DUI Defendant as such. You may wish to include a statement declaring his or her character in some way.red circle around intro paragraph of character reference letter

3 – The Body Of The Letter Must Show A Positive Light On The Defendant

The content of the body will act as support for the DUI Defendant. After all, the recipient(s) of this letter will likely only know the DUI Defendant as a result and in relation to the DUI Offense. It will be up to the content of this letter to expand this perception and to state some positive attributes to the Defendant. Due to the nature of a DUI Offense, you may wish to discuss the observed cause and effect of the Defendant’s behavior and what he or she will do about it. For instance, the Defendant could have had some extremely challenging hardships in his or her Professional or Personal life, such as the death of a family member he or she was close to. If the DUI Defendant has mentioned seeking help for a substance abuse problem, make sure to state this intent. Make sure to also state your belief in the DUI Defendant’s ability to move past this event.red circle around body paragraph of character reference letter

4 – The Letter’s Closing And Your Signature Will Solidify Your Intent

The last paragraph of this letter should reiterate the Introduction with a slightly more personal touch. Make sure to mention (in some manner) how you want the Recipient to react to this letter. Remember, ultimately, you will want to end the letter with an endorsement of the Defendant.red circle around conclusion paragraph of character reference letterFinally, close this letter with your Signature. Print your name below your Signature.red circle around sign off at the bottom of character reference letter


Sample 2 – For Child Custody

1 – Provide The Heading And The Greeting

You will need to self-identify using your full Name and Residential Address in the upper left-hand corner of document you are working on. This area should be presented similarly to that on an envelope and should include your residential address. Place your Full Name on the first line, your Street Address on the second line, and your City/State/Zip Code on the third line         red circle around writer's personal information in character reference letterSkip two lines then enter the current Date. That is, the Date you are composing this letter.red circle around date of character reference letterIn some cases, it is a good idea to include a subject line. A simple one, stating the hopeful Parent/Guardian’s Name and/or Case Number, will suffice. red circle around subject line of character reference letterOpen the letter with a Greeting to the recipient. For our purposes, this will be a judge.red circle around "to the honorable judge" in character reference letter

2 – The Content Of The Letter

The introductory paragraph to this Letter of Recommendation will serve a specific Purpose. Indicate who you are writing this letter for, how you know the individual you are recommending, and how long you have known this individual. When this task is done, make a statement of declaration to recommend this individual to have custody of the concerned Minor or Child.red circle around intro paragraph of character reference letterThe next paragraph will be the heart of the letter you are composing. You should make sure to include observations you have made that suggest the hopeful Parent/Guardian will be a positive factor in the Minor or Child’s life. If there is anything the Parent/Guardian is known for in his or her community that demonstrates his or her effectiveness as a positive force (i.e. volunteer work, memberships, etc.), then mention this as well. There should be a minimum of two to three statements here. Keep in mind, this portion of the letter can be as long as you like. If there are any questions regarding this content and its length, you may wish to consult the Parent/Guardian or his or her Attorney.red circle around body paragraph of character reference letter

3 – The Closing And Signature Of The Letter

The last paragraph should recapture your first statement and include your desire for this letter to be taken seriously.red circle around conclusion paragraph of character reference letterFinally, use a standard closing (i.e. Sincerely, Signed, Best Wishes, etc.)red circle around writer sign off in character reference letter


Sample 3 – For a Friend

1 – Supply The Heading Information

This will be considered an official correspondence regardless of the circumstances causing you to write this letter. It will be important to keep in mind that you may need to sign further documentation or even give a physical testimony in court as to this letters authenticity. As a result, there will be some requirements that must be met. The first of which will be a positive and clear identification of the author. This task should be completed in the upper left-hand corner of the first page. Supply your Full Name, your Residential Street Address, and your City, State, and Zip Code. This should appear as a mailing address on an envelope. Note: Do not use a P.O. Box Number, this must be a physical address.        red circle around writer's personal information in character reference letterThe recipient of this letter will need to know when the letter was written. If this letter is written for a Defendant who is awaiting sentencing, this will be especially important. Enter the current Date by writing out the Month then entering the two-digit calendar day and four-digit year.red circle around date of character reference letterGenerally, it is a good idea to note the subject of this letter immediately in the Title. The attorney representing the subject of this letter may have preferences regarding this so make sure to contact them. In some cases, the format may be Last Name, First Name, Case Number while, in others it may be the Case Number first, and still others only the Case Number or the Name. In our example, we shall use the Full Name.red circle around subject line of character reference letter

2 – Document The Defendant’s Positive Attributes

Once, this initial information has been tended to, it will be time to open the letter by greeting the recipient. Oftentimes, the subject will be in a court case and this letter will be submitted by his or her defense attorney directly to the presiding judge. In our example, we shall assume the defense attorney has requested a somewhat standard and generic greeting.The introduction to this letter will need to provide a few items. You will need to identify the Defendant as the subject, report how you know the Defendant, and the length of time this relationship has existed. It will also be important to declare your belief. For instance, after stating why you are writing this letter, state what you believe should happen to the Defendant. If you are being asked to write this to help show someone’s innocence then you should clearly state this. In our example, we will be assuming the Defendant has already been found guilty or plead guilty and our goal will be to ask for leniency on his or her behalf.Next, we will need to establish the Defendant’s character. Since, the recipient has no idea what kind of person the Defendant is outside of this case, we will need to paint a fuller picture. In the second paragraph, try to define the Defendant as having some value to the community he or she is in as well as his or her impact on your life as well. If appropriate, make sure to mention any strong feelings (i.e. such as love) you may hold for the Defendantred circle around body of character reference letter

3 – Acknowledge The Defendant Has Made A Mistake And Provide Support

The third paragraph should acknowledge the Defendant’s mistake and, if relevant, mention any steps the Defendant has taken to change their lives. Make sure to mention that you believe in this individual’s ability to reform as well as abide by the court’s ruling. It is also a good idea to mention any relevant the conversations you may have had with the Defendant regarding this turn of events.red circle around second body paragraph of character reference letter

4 – Close The Letter By Summarizing The Letter And Signing It

The conclusion should state the basic idea underlying the introduction and the body of this letter. That is, specifically state your desire for this letter to be taken as a serious character reference and what impact you hope it will have.red circle around conclusion paragraph of character reference letter

You should finalize this letter by using an acceptable closing (i.e. Sincerely), Signing your name, then Printing your Name.red circle around writer's sign off in character reference letter