How to Get a Public Defender

By K. Lynn Wallace

When you are charged with a crime, it is important to get an attorney who can help you navigate the judicial system. If you are unable to afford an attorney, you may qualify for free or low-cost legal assistance from a public defender.

Determine the eligibility requirements. Each agency has certain requirements that you must meet in order to qualify for the services of a public defender. In order to determine what you must do in order to qualify, you should contact your local public defender's office.

Petition the court. If you are unable to obtain the services of a public defender, ask the judge what you can do to obtain counsel at your next court appearance. In some jurisdictions, you must request that the judge appoint an attorney to represent you.

Prove your financial eligibility by bringing evidence of your low income (pay stubs or tax returns) with you when you go to apply for a public defender. If someone else supports you, you may be required to provide a letter from that person stating that he is responsible for your support.

Provide court documents. When you apply for a public defender be sure to bring all of the paperwork that you have received from the court. This will help the public defender's office assign you to the correct attorney, and will help the attorney get started on your case as soon as possible.

Stay in touch. It is important that your public defender be able to reach you at all times. Be sure to give your attorney a way to contact you, and update him should your contact information change.

About the Author

K. Lynn Wallace attended the University of the Arts and University of Baltimore Law school and is now an attorney in Maryland. She has a general litigation practice and has been a writer since 2009. She has served on the editorial board of the "University of Baltimore Intellectual Property Journal."

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