Qualifying for a Public Defender


Criminal defense attorneys can be expensive, with typical hourly rates ranging between $150 and $500. With those rates, not everyone can afford representation, which is why the judiciary found it necessary to provide public defenders. However, many people are still uncertain of the availability of such attorneys or how to request one. Also, not every defendant will merit such representation as there are certain financial restrictions. Therefore, how do you qualify for a court-appointed lawyer, and if you don’t qualify, how do you find an affordable attorney?

Court-Appointed Lawyer

First, it is necessary to understand the process for requesting a public defender. When you are arrested, you will need to appear for an arraignment, which is when you will be notified of your formal charges and asked to make your plea. It is at this proceeding that you will request an attorney from the judge. In fact, the judge, noticing your lack of representation, will ask if you would like the court to appoint an attorney to you. If you say yes, then the judge will ask you a few qualifying questions about your finances, and if you meet the requirements, they will assign your attorney right away.

Local Regulations

While it might seem that there are federal guidelines for the income restrictions for public defenders, local municipalities have a greater say in how court-appointed attorneys are awarded. Therefore, each state is different. Consequently, the only way to know if you qualify for a court-appointed lawyer is to review the regulations for your state.

Partial Indigency

Unfortunately, there are barriers to free representation, meaning that you likely need to be low income. However, there are cases when an individual earns enough money to be placed above the financial threshold but not enough to acquire fair representation. In these instances, a judge might grant partial indigency, which means a defendant will be given a public defender, but they will also have to pay for a portion of their defense.

Pro Bono

Don’t be discouraged if you do not qualify for a public defender or partial indigency. You might still be able to find an attorney willing to take on your case pro bono, or free of charge. The bar association in many states requires that an attorney offer a percentage of their services for free to maintain their license. However, this requirement is not universal. Therefore, it is best to check with the bar association.

Everyone is entitled to fair representation. However, to qualify for a free attorney, there are certain financial hardships you must prove. Contact criminal defense lawyers in Rockville, MD to discuss fees and flexible payment options.

Thanks to the Law Office of Daniel J. Wright for their insight into criminal law and qualifying for a public defender.

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