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Please Don’t Write a Letter to the Judge

writing.jpg I like to write, sort of. But, there’s a pit in my stomach every time I hear a defendant say “I wrote a letter to the judge, explaining my situation”. Really? That’s the worst idea ever. Remember that the people you are writing to–the judge, the state attorney, etc–are not on your side. Fortunately, you have an Orlando criminal defense attorney here to save you from yourself, let’s talk about why….

There are tons of cases out there where defendants have learned their lesson in writing to a judge, but I’ll focus on a 5th District Court of Appeal case. In Courtemanche v. State of Florida 24 So.3d 770 (Fla. 5th DCA 2009), the defendant wrote a letter to the judge after a plea. What’s wrong with that, right? Well, the problems arose when the defendant decided to withdraw his plea and go to trial. Once at trial, the ‘confession letter’ was discussed, and the jury convicted him of trafficking in methamphetamine. The defense argued that the confession letter was an improper comment on his right to remain silent. Yet, the court found that, because the confession letter was not part of a plea deal (the defendant just wrote it on his own, without anyone asking for it), it was ‘unsolicited’ and thus admissible.

Letter writing to the judge happens more often than you may think. It’s always a bad idea. Always. Don’t do it. Don’t let your clients do it. Don’t let your friends do it. Have I covered everyone?