February 20, 2019

Readers of our work know that we believe defendants need to take action to get the best outcome. If your goal is to outsource all of your work to your lawyer, you should not be on this page.

One way that defendants can prepare is through the character references letter they create. Like the personal narrative, your character reference letters must convey the right message to all the stakeholders that will judge you. Let’s talk about the stakeholders…

Stakeholders in the process ahead will read the allegations against you.

What is the purpose of a character reference letter?

Theoretically, our judicial system operates under the premise that people are innocent until proven guilty. Yet the allegations themselves often lead people down a path to a verdict of guilt. Inevitably, the following people will form a biased opinion about anyone accused of wrongdoing:

• Investigators who take a first look at the allegation, including
o FBI agents
o DEA agents
o Securities and Exchange Commission attorneys
o Federal Trade Commission attorneys
o Police officers
• Prosecutors that choose to bring the charges against a defendant
• Probation officers that prepare presentence investigation reports
• Judges that determine guilt or innocence, and then sentence defendants
• Prison officials that determine where the individual will serve the sanction, what programs will be available, and to some extent, when the individual will return to society.
• Probation officers that supervise release.
• People who work with the individual after the case concludes.

Defendants that understand the challenges ahead should take every step possible to influence the process. It’s true that no one can change the past. But all of us can start to lay a foundation that will advance our prospects for success in the months, years, and decades to come.

One step in the process is preparing for the character reference letter. And to prepare for the character-reference letter, we must understand its purpose.

What is the purpose of a Character Reference Letter?

A good character-reference letter should help readers understand more about the individual. To the extent that an individual can influence the ways that others perceive him—notwithstanding allegations of misconduct—that individual influences the prospect for a more favorable outcome.

All human beings are more than any given event. But when a person faces an allegation of wrongdoing, that allegation, or complaint, or conviction, tends to overshadow everything. It influences the way we see a person.

Justin Paperny

P.S. If you want to obtain letters that will help you at sentencing (or on federal probation) go here.

What is the purpose of a character reference letter?
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