How to Write a Letter of Explanation for a Misdemeanor Charge

By Teo Spengler - Updated June 05, 2017
Man holding coffee, writing a letter

A criminal past is as difficult to shake as your shadow, and it can haunt you even after you have turned over a new leaf. If you have been convicted, or even charged with a misdemeanor, you may be requested to write a letter explaining the circumstances if you apply to enter service professions.

Requests for Letter of Explanation

As you move on in life, you may be asked to account for criminal charges filed against you in your youth. Some states limit inquiries to convictions, but others permit questions about any arrests or charges filed. The types of agencies that may require letters of explanation if you are applying for a license include the real estate commission, the dental examiner board and the board of nursing.

Contents of Letter

The specific contents of a letter of explanation depend on the purpose for which the letter is required. In general, most licensing boards want you to outline the facts of the misdemeanor charge without going into too much detail. Be honest and upfront about the situation, and don't try to make excuses or lay blame for your poor choices. Generally the letter can be either handwritten or printed, and should state the time frame of the offense, what happened and your steps toward rehabilitation.

Focus on the Future

After providing a description of the incident, it's important to show how you have moved on from your mistake. Keep the tone positive, and emphasize why you are a different person today. For example, you could list the training, education and community work that you intentionally did to change your behavior. Establish where you would like to be in the future, and explain how your values have changed. Maybe you were young and impulsive at the time, but now you value personal responsibility and respect.

Proofread the Letter

Have someone proofread your letter for grammar and spelling. Ask them to check that the tone is frank, genuine and positive. When you're happy with the letter, sign it and mail it to the relevant licensing board.

About the Author

Teo Spengler earned a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an M.A. and an M.F.A in creative writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.

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