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How to Write a Letter to the Judge for Victims of Rape, Domestic Violence, and Child Abuse


imagehere are any number of occasions when you as a crime victim or victim advocate may want to write a letter to the judge in the criminal court case. For example, you may want to request that the judge increase the defendant's bail, or request that the judge not reduce the bail. You may want to request that the judge issue you a criminal protective order (sometimes referred to as a criminal court stay-away order), or that the judge reject a plea bargain, enter or suppress specific evidence to protect your rights, remand the defendant to jail or, in many other ways, make your interests and requests known to the judge and the court. Most people aren't aware that you can simply submit your letter or note to the judge at any time in the court proceedings.

Below, we provide four examples of different kinds of letters you as a victim or victim advocate, may want to write to the judge in the criminal case. Remember, these letters are just examples, and certainly don't begin to cover all the possibilities. Before getting to the letters, though, here is some important general information that should help you write a more effective letter.

  1. Don't hesitate or feel shy about writing a judge. A big part of the judge's job on your case is to make sure that all involved are treated fairly and that their rights are protected throughout the case. Since you as the victim are the principle witness in the case, and since you aren't represented by an attorney, the judge will be especially concerned about you and your needs. So don't hesitate to write the judge a letter. And don't feel you have to use formal language.

  2. Often you can ask the prosecutor on the case to help you with many of the same concerns we listed above. In fact, asking the prosecutor is usually the best place to start. (The prosecutor is also referred to as the assistant or deputy district attorney.) However, the reason there may be times you need to write directly to the judge is because the prosecutor is not your attorney and doesn't represent you. The prosecutor is the community's attorney. In addition, the case prosecutor isn't always available.

    There are times, especially at the beginning of the case, when you may not know who the prosecutor is on your case, or you may not be able to get a hold of the prosecutor. Also, because the prosecutor is not your attorney, there are times when the prosecutor may act apart from, or even against, your interests. It's at any of these times that you might need to assert your own interests and needs directly to the judge. And the best way to do that is through a short, concise letter or note.

  3. Make your letter short, simple, and legible. Try to limit your letter to one page so the judge can read it quickly. Your letter can be hand written, if you wish, and you can write it in the language in which you best express your thoughts. Remember that criminal court judges have professional interpreters available to them at all times. So don't worry if you write your letter in a language other than English.

  4. Make sure your letter includes your printed name, your written signature, your date of birth, the date you are writing the letter, and the name or number of the case. (If you don't know the number of the case simply refer to the case as "People vs. Name of Defendant.) All these things are necessary to validate and verify your letter to the court. It's also best if you know the judge's name too, but it's not essential. And it's a good idea to inform the judge that you are willing to testify in the case. This will make the judge take your requests and interests more seriously.

  5. Don't present case evidence in your letter to the judge. Most judges will stop reading the letter if you do. (See letter number four for more discussion of this issue.) In fact, it's always a good idea to state your purpose very clearly at the beginning of the letter so the judge won't have to be concerned that you're about to present evidence. Stating your purpose clearly at the beginning of the letter also makes your letter much easier to read.

  6. The best time to present your letter to the judge is when the judge calls the case; that means when the court turns it's attention to the case. Just hand the letter to the bailiff or to the court clerk and ask that the letter be handed to the judge. If you are unable to be in court, you can have a victim advocate or a friend take the letter in for you.

    You can also send your letter to the judge through the mail. But often there isn't time.

  7. Try to make at least five copies of your letter before taking it into the court. You need to be aware that the letter you give to the judge will also be given to the prosecutor, to the defense attorney, and if the case involves a violation of probation, your letter will also be handed to the probation officer on the case. ALWAYS, make and keep a copy of the letter for yourself!


The Following Sample Letters Are All Fictitious.


Sample Letter Number One; Victim Request to the Judge Regarding Bail Increase and for a Criminal Protective Order

One of the most likely times you'll want to write to the judge is right at the beginning of the case when the defendant is arraigned or during a bail reduction hearing, both of which usually occur within a week after the suspect is arrested. At these times, the judge usually hasn't yet heard any of the facts of the case, and the prosecutor often isn't fully informed either. As the victim, you are likely still traumatized and very fearful. You don't have to attend these hearings, and you probably don't want to. At the same time you may want the judge to know how fearful you are, and you may want to ask the judge to protect you as best as possible. Your letter can be delivered to the court by a friend or an advocate. Here's an example of one such letter.

May 1, 2001

Dear Judge Watson,

I am the victim in the domestic violence case of People vs. Ray Johnson. I am willing to testify in this case.

I'm requesting that you please don't reduce the defendant's bail. I'm also requesting that you issue a criminal protective order ordering that Mr. Johnson have no contact with me or with our children. My children were present when Mr. Johnson beat me and threatened to kill me two days ago. Mr. Johnson also said if I ever called the police he would take the children and I would never see them again.

I am very afraid of him and believe he is capable of carrying out his threats. He has been violent towards me and the children for the last two years, and every beating is worse than the one before. Please don't reduce his bail. Please grant a criminal protective order for myself and my children.

Thank you.


Victim Signature
Victim Printed Name
Victim Date of Birth


Sample Letter Number Two; Request to the Judge to Reject the Plea Bargain in the Case

Plea bargains are an everyday part of the American criminal justice system. A plea bargains is a negotiated deal between the prosecutor, the defendant, and the court in which the prosecutor offers the defendant lesser charges in exchange for a guilty plea in order to circumvent having to go to trial. Just because the prosecutor offers a deal in your case doesn't mean that justice isn't being served. There are times, however, when a prosecutor offers the defendant a deal that so minimizes the crime committed against you that the deal itself is an obvious insult and injustice to you and the community. Sometimes prosecutors offer these "give-away" deals because they are just too lazy to properly prosecute the case, and sometimes they do it because they are sexist, and they don't take violence against women seriously. If you feel that the prosecutor on your case is offering the defendant a "give-away" deal, you can write directly to the judge and request that the judge reject the deal. You can do this right up to the day of sentencing.

May 1, 2001

Judge Jensen,

I am the victim in the rape case of People vs. Ray Johnson. I just learned that the prosecution and defense have agreed to a plea bargain in this case. The prosecutor has agreed to drop one charge of kidnap and two charges of rape in exchange for a guilty plea from the defendant on one charge of sexual battery. Since sexual battery in California means only that someone sexually puts their hands on another person, I feel this deal is grossly unjust to myself and the community, and I urge you to please reject this deal.

I have already expressed my strong dissatisfaction with this deal to the prosecutor. The prosecutor said he wants to save me the trauma of having to testify. But I am fully willing to testify in this case even though I'm nervous about testifying. I want the truth to be told because I don't want what happened to me to happen to any other woman.

The prosecutor also said there isn't enough evidence to prosecute the case. But there were witnesses at key points in the crime and a lot of other evidence too.

I believe the only reason the prosecutor has offered this give-away deal is so that he can avoid the work of having to properly prosecute this case.

In the interests of justice and the safety of our community, I'm asking that you please reject the plea bargain.

Thank you for your attention.

Victim Signature
Victim Printed Name
Victim Date of Birth


Sample Letter Number Three; A Request that Defendant Be Remanded (sent) to Jail

Victim advocates can also write to the judge at any time in the case on behalf of the victim. In fact, when criminal justice officials aren't providing the justice merited by the case and desired by the victim, it is the responsibility of the advocate to fight on the victim's behalf. As always, remember that this must be done only in accord with the victim's wishes and informed consent. In the case of writing a letter to the judge on behalf of a victim, be sure to fully involve the victim in the process. And after the letter is written, be sure the victim has time to read the letter, time to think about it, and time to make any changes she wishes.

May 1, 2001

The Honorable Judge Cale
Domestic Violence Court

Judge Cale,

I am the victim advocate for Andrea Hernandez in the violation of probation case against Javier Hernandez. We are requesting that you remand the defendant to jail.

Andrea and her baby have been subjected to nearly a year of unrelenting stalking and torment by the defendant. When Andrea first came to our office two and a half months ago, she was already battle worn to the point of despair.

Still, before the last sentencing, Andrea gathered some hope she would be heard. She typed out more than one statement to you carefully presenting the painful details needed for the court to understand the tightening seizure of her life and liberties by the defendant's near daily obsessive stalking. And she begged you to keep this man out of her life and in custody where he belongs.

The police have also written more than a dozen crime reports on Mr. Hernandez' violations of the domestic violence restraining order. And, in the last four months, Mr. Hernandez has been convicted on three separate occasions of these violations. And still this court has allowed him to be released on probation again and again.

The evidence was piled up long ago that this defendant's criminal obsession with tormenting Andrea is immune to restraining orders, immune to a judge's admonitions, unfazed by arrest after arrest, and completely unaffected by any terms of probation.

We feel there are three very alarming risks in this case. One is the defendant's unrelenting stalking. Two is the court's inexplicable blindness to the danger of this obsession, and three is the victim's deepening despair that the remedy of justice will ever be applied.

Please protect this family. Remand the defendant to the maximum sentence in jail, and give this family the time and the freedom to begin to glimpse a normal life again.

Signed by the Victim Advocate
Printed Name of Victim Advocate
Victim Advocate for Andrea Hernandez Organization


Sample Letter Number Four; Requesting Protective Order on Evidence

In general, any letter you write to the judge should avoid laying out evidence or discussing evidence in the case. Evidence must be presented to the court by the attorneys in a way that is not misleading and not prejudicial. There are hundreds of complex rules that govern the way in which this must be done.

At the same time, however, since you are the primary witness in the case, much of the evidence is intimately connected to you, and you do have rights as to how such evidence is handled. If you feel the district attorney is not respecting your rights in the handling of evidence connected to you, you absolutely should make an appeal to the judge. The following example should make this all a little clearer.

May 1, 2001

Judge Wilson,

I am the victim in the rape case of People vs. Ray Johnson. The prosecutor on this case has ordered me to turn over my entire diary. He's threatening me, saying that if I don't do so I can be thrown in jail. I am more than willing to allow the relevant parts of my diary to be used as evidence in this case. But most of my diary has nothing to do with the events of this case. In fact, most of my diary covers back three years before the rape even occurred.

I know I have constitutional rights to privacy. I'm asking you to protect my rights. If I have to turn over my entire diary to the prosecutor, then the prosecutor has to turn it over to the defense. It would be so unjust and unfair if, after raping me, the defendant then gets to trample freely through my most intimate thoughts in my diary, and then fish around to use anything they might find against me.

Please protect my rights to privacy. I am willing to turn my diary over to you so you can decide which part of my diary is needed as evidence, and so you can please put a protective order on all parts of my diary that aren't needed as evidence.

Thank you for your attention.

Victim Signature
Victim Printed Name
Victim Date of Birth


Feel free to photocopy and distribute this information as long as you keep the credit and text intact.
Copyright © Marie De Santis,
Women's Justice Center,



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