How do I get a free lawyer?

If you have been charged with committing a delinquent act and you and your parents do not have sufficient funds to hire a private attorney, then you are constitutionally entitled to a free attorney to represent you in your case.  In order to determine if you are qualified to receive a free attorney, your parents, guardians or legal custodians must fill out an application for the Public Defender.  To get an application for a Public Defender,  you can contact one of the Public Defenders’ 21 regional trial offices (Public Defender Offices list with counties) or click on this link Public Defender Application for an electronic copy of the application form.

The application for the public defender asks for information about your parents’ income, assets, and debt.  The court reviews this application and decides whether or not you qualify for a public defender.  If you qualify for the public defender, the court will appoint the public defender as your defense attorney.  You are more likely to get a free lawyer to represent you at your first court appearance if you apply for the Public Defenders at least five days before your scheduled court date.  Contact information for the Public Defenders should be on the back of the ticket you were issued.  When you make the appointment with the Public Defenders, please make sure to bring as much of the required financial information listed on the application form with you as possible. This will make it easier to determine if you are eligible for court appointed counsel.

If you were not given a ticket and instead were detained by the legal authorities, you will automatically have an attorney appointed to represent you at your detention hearing unless you have retained a private attorney. The court may or may not continue this representation after the detention hearing.  You parents, guardians or legal custodians will need to fill out the Public Defender application form after the hearing to determine if you qualify for continued representation by court appointed counsel.

If you are in the custody of the Department of Human Services or in the custody of county social services, you will automatically be provided with a court appointed attorney. Additionally, even if you do not request an attorney, the court can appoint an attorney for you anyway if the court determines that it is in your best interest to have representation.

If you are eighteen years old or older but were accused of a crime from when you were under age eighteen, you can still fill out the application for the public defender.  Whether or not you qualify for a public defender will be based on your own income, assets, and debt.