If you have been found guilty or intend to plead guilty to a crime, one way to show the judge that you are genuinely sorry for your behavior is to write an apology letter. Doing so shows the judge that you understand how serious your actions are, that you are remorseful, and it may help reduce how severe of a sentence you receive.
While there is not a standard format for an apology letter, there are some things that you should and shouldn’t write to get the best possible result. This article will address what you should include in your letter of apology.
Your apology letter should be no more than one page long and should be typed on letterhead if possible. Judges and Magistrates will typically allocate a specific amount of time per case, as they have many cases to review daily.
You should always refer to the Judge or Magistrate as “Your Honor.” Make sure the letter is in your own words, and make sure to sign and date it before giving it to the court. It’s also recommended that your lawyer review the apology letter before submitting it to the judge.
What to Include in Your Apology Letter
Your letter should be in business block format. You should address it to the Judge or Magistrate in care of the District Court.
In your letter you should:
- Accept responsibility for your actions and acknowledge the seriousness of your offense.
- Show remorse and provide insight into your offense. Examples of this, based on offense, are below.
- Driving offenses – Acknowledge that your offense caused harm or could have potentially caused harm.
- Drug offenses – Show that you understand that drugs are harmful to the user and the community. For example, you can acknowledge that there are ingredients in drugs that can lead to death and that you understand that your drug offense contributed to the illegal drug trade.
- Fraud – Acknowledge that your victim has suffered a loss because of your actions. If you have paid back what was taken, detail how much you paid back and when you paid it. Make sure to have evidence to support these claims.
- Assault – Acknowledge the harm your actions caused or could have caused. Make sure to show that you understand how serious your offense was.
- Reassure the court that you won’t re-offend. Present the judge with evidence of steps that you have taken to rehabilitate yourself. Outline treatments you have obtained to address drug addiction, mental health, anger management, gambling addictions, or other factors that contributed to your offense. Here are some examples:
- Driving offenses – Mention what you learned after completing a safe driving course.
- Drug offenses – Discuss your progress in drug counseling or completing any court-required programs.
- Fraud or larceny – Give an overview of any type of substance abuse or gambling counseling you have participated in or are participating in and its progress.
- Mental illness – If mental illness had a part in your offense, you could outline the progress of your treatment with a psychologist and how often you are attending sessions.
- Express regret for your actions and the embarrassment you feel when looking back on your behavior. You can do this by expressing the shame you experienced when communicating your offense to those close to you.
- Explain your current employment situation.
- A summary of your role.
- How long you have worked in the industry you are in, and how long you’ve worked for your current employer.
- The impact that a criminal conviction would have on your job and why.
- If your work requires travel, explain how often and where you travel.
- If your position requires security clearance checks or criminal background checks explain how a conviction will affect this.
- If your employer has a no convictions policy, submit evidence of the policy from your employer. You should also outline the potential consequences of a criminal conviction (i.e., termination) which should also be in the form of a letter from your employer.
- Discuss your personal commitments that would be affected due to a criminal conviction. For example, if your family depends on your income, or if someone depends on you to drive them to medical appointments, etc.
What to Avoid Writing in Your Apology Letter
Now that you know what you should include in your letter, it’s essential to know what to avoid writing in your apology letter. So here are some things you should avoid writing in your letter of apology.
- Avoid telling the Judge of the Magistrate what your punishment should be.
- Don’t give excuses for your offense. You’re more likely to get a better outcome after pleading guilty if you own up to your offense.
- Don’t come across as though you are shifting blame from yourself. This could result in a harsher penalty because it shows a lack of remorse and insight.
- Don’t copy another apology letter word for word. Judges and Magistrates have read thousands of apology letters, so they will be able to figure out that you have copied another letter quickly.
Let Jeremy Widder Law Be Your Advocate
By writing an apology letter assuming responsibility for your actions, and showing that you are dedicated to change, a judge is more likely to be more lenient during sentencing. But before you send your letter off, make sure that an experienced criminal defense attorney reviews it.
The team at Jeremy Widder Law has experience in various legal practice areas, including protective orders and minor offenses, substance-related offenses, property crimes and non-violent felonies, and other major offenses and minor felonies.
Contact us today, and let us put our years of trial experience to work for you.