How to Write a Letter of Apology for Court
When you have pleaded guilty to a criminal offence in the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria the Magistrate will consider many factors when deciding on a penalty. These factors include your remorse for the offending and the likelihood that you will offend again.
Generally, you will not be expected to speak directly to the magistrate if you have hired a lawyer for your plea hearing. For this reason, it can be helpful if you write a letter to the magistrate explaining how you feel about the offending and needing to appear at court, what you have learned and why you won’t offend again.
There is a temptation to copy examples of apology letters from the internet or from friends who have been in a similar situation. However, we advise against this, because magistrates can tell when the words in your apology letter are not your own. You should keep in mind that magistrates read hundreds of similar letters every week and can easily see when you have used a template or draft from online.
If you do use a draft prepared by someone else, it might lead the magistrate to think you are not apologetic and have not learned anything. This may lead to them giving you a harsher penalty than if you had shown sincere remorse through your own words. There really is no such thing as a bad apology letter if you have put effort in and been honest with the court. The magistrate doesn’t want to read a perfectly written piece; they want to know what you genuinely think and feel.
Hints and Tips for Drafting Your Letter
- Address the letter to “The Presiding Magistrate” or “Your Honour”;
- Sign and date the letter;
- Ensure the contents of the letter fit on to one A4 page; and
- Put the letter on business letterhead if you are self-employed.
What You Could Cover
- How you felt when you were caught by police;
- What you have learned from a Road Trauma Awareness Seminar, ReGen Program or some other form of counselling, therapy or treatment;
- Briefly address any impact that possible penalties might have on you and your family;
- How your offending could have impacted on others (such as police, emergency services, any victims, your family, society in general, the court) and how you feel about that;
- How you felt telling people about your offence and asking them for character references;
- Why your offence is so serious and how you feel knowing that you have committed it;
- Why you will not offend again.
What to Avoid
- Justifying your actions;
- Presenting an argument for leniency;
- Asking the Magistrate for certain outcomes;
- Focusing on the impact that the penalty might have on you rather than the seriousness of your offence and how sorry you are.
If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.