Letters of recommendation are often used by the judicial system to verify a person's character and rehabilitation. If you've been asked to write a letter of reference for a friend seeking expungement of a criminal record, the process can seem daunting. With a little advanced planning and thought, however, you can help your friend obtain a clean record and a fresh start.
What to Say
Ask your friend what he'd like for you to say. Your friend may have received specific information about what needs to be in the letter.
Learn the specific charges she is trying to have expunged. This will guide what you say in the letter. A drug charge, for example, will mean that you need to focus on your friend's sober lifestyle. The judicial system wants to know that she has been fully rehabilitated since the time of the crime, and so you need to make sure you help to demonstrate this.
State the relationship you have to your friend. A parole officer or judge will want to know how and how long you have known him. Be sure to emphasize that you know him well or your letter may have no impact. If you knew him at the time of the crime he committed, be sure to say this as well. This will give you authority in the eyes of the judicial system when you speak about his rehabilitation since the time of the crime.
Give specific examples of ways in which your friend has been rehabilitated. A generalized form letter saying that she is a "good person" won't suffice. Your letter needs to be very concrete and as detailed as possible.
Share the contributions your friend makes to society. The judge wants to see that he is no longer a threat, so focus on the ways in which he makes your community better. Talk about volunteer work, relationships with family, and ways in which he has helped you.
How to Write
Type your letter and use correct business format. This includes placing your return address in the top right of the letter (or in the top middle if you are using your professional stationary) and putting the address of the addressee in the top left corner. Place a date on the letter underneath the addresses.
Address the letter to the appropriate person. If you're not sure, ask your friend's attorney or parole officer. Generally speaking, letters of expungement are addressed to the judge overseeing her case. Address the judge as "Judge (Judge's Last Name)". In the section of your letter where you place the judge's address, the judge's title should be "The Honorable Judge First Name Last Name."
Use correct grammar and sentence structure. Your letter will not be taken seriously if you come across as poorly informed or if it seems like you put little thought into the letter. Use spell check and have at least one other person proofread your letter for grammar and sentence structure errors.
- Don't question the fairness of your friend's conviction or claim that the judicial system is unfair.
- "How to Say It, Third Edition"; Rosalie Maggio; 2009
- The Law Office of Nancy King: Letters of Reference for Expungements
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