Writing an apology letter to the court is usually a good idea if you are pleading guilty.
The law says that if there is evidence in writing that you are sorry for the offence, the Court can consider this a ‘mitigating factor’. This means you may get a less serious penalty. Another mitigating factor is if the Court thinks you are not likely to reoffend and you can use a letter of apology to show this to the court too.
When should I write an apology letter?
If you are pleading guilty to any criminal or traffic offence (including an infringement that you elected to take to court) it is a good idea to do an apology letter.
If you are going to court for a Licence Appeal (due to being suspended for one or more traffic offences), you can write an apology letter too.
Who should I address the apology letter to?
Your apology letter should be addressed to “Your Honour” or the Magistrate or Judge hearing your case. If your case is in the Local Court, a Magistrate will decide your case. If you are going to the District Court, a Judge will decide your case, for example:
To the Presiding Magistrate
Hornsby Local Court
To the Presiding Judge
Parramatta District Court
What should an apology letter look like?
Your letter can be typed or neatly handwritten. You should date and sign your letter.
You don’t need to write formal words to the Court, just make sure everything in your letter is genuine.
It is usually a good idea to keep your letter to a page in length, and no more than two pages.
What should I include in an apology letter?
Your apology letter should include:
- an apology - tell the court you are sorry and any reflections you have had on your behaviour and its impact on others (if this is relevant for your offence)
- a statement that you take responsibility for your actions
- any steps you have taken to fix the damage caused by your actions, for example, if you have apologised to the victim
- any steps you have taken so you won’t reoffend
- details of any program you have participated in or treatment you have received to address your behaviour and how it is helping you or what you have learnt, for example completing the traffic offender program or an anger management program
- anything else you would like to tell the Court.
When do I give the Court my apology letter?
You should bring your apology letter with you to court on the day and hand it to the court before the Court sentences you.
You should show your letter to the prosecutor before giving it to the Court. You are entitled to see the material a prosecutor wants to give to the Court, and the prosecutor is entitled to see what you hand up to the Court, including your apology letter.
You should bring three copies of your letter. One can be handed up to the Court, one to the prosecutor and one for you to keep.