How to Write a Plea Letter

Pen and glasses on a handwritten letter
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Defendants involved in court cases write plea letters to the judge to offer an answer to charges against them. A plea letter is also considered a plea for mercy by a defendant. When a defendant is charged with a crime, he normally pleads guilty or not guilty; although there are several other types of pleas defendants may use. When a person writes a letter to a judge for any reason, it must be respectful, direct and clear.

Determine your type of plea. If you are a defendant and must write a plea letter to a judge, you must first determine how you will plead. There are several different ways to plead, depending on the crime, the evidence and other factors of the case.

Read More: What Is a Binding Plea Agreement?

Address the letter. Most letters to judges should be addressed “Your Honor,” which shows respect to the judge.

Introduce yourself. Begin the plea letter with a short introduction of yourself.

State your plea. Be very clear about how you are pleading. If you are pleading not guilty by reason of insanity, be sure to include those words.

Describe any extenuating factors that might persuade the judge. If this is a first-time offense and you have no other charges on your record, indicate this within the letter. Do not try to downplay the severity of the crime that was committed. Instead, if you are pleading guilty, express remorse and regret.

Plead with the judge. Judges often partially base their sentencing decision on this letter and its contents. Ask the judge to be lenient on your sentencing. Describe your reasons for this request. For example, if you have children, explain that you have always been a responsible parent and it would be in the children’s best interest to have you present in their lives.

Close the letter. Thank the judge for his or her time, and sign your name after closing with “Sincerely.”

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