The Office of the Public Defender makes the determination of whether one qualifies for representation by a public defender. You will have to disclose your income and your assets. A public defender will be appointed if it is determined that you do not have the ability to retain your own lawyer. Eligibility is assumed for juvenile delinquency proceedings, and revocation and contempt cases where the person is incarcerated. Each case is evaluated individually. The public defender may decline services if you appear to have the ability to retain your own lawyer.
If you qualify for representation by the public defender there will be no charge to you for their services. Furthermore, there will be no filing fees charged for any legal papers filed in your case.
If you qualify, but it is determined that a conflict of interest exists preventing the Public Defender's Office from serving on a particular case, the County Court appoints and compensates a private attorney from outside the Public Defender's Office to represent you.
Application for representation must be made in person. You will need a copy of your charging papers when applying (generally, a criminal complaint). Applications are not accepted without the proper paperwork. Application must be made five (5) days prior to your preliminary hearing. If applying for representation on a case already scheduled before the Court of Common Pleas, the application must be submitted two (2) Fridays prior to the scheduled court date. This is to ensure we have time to file for a continuance, if necessary.
If you are in jail because of these charges, one of our staff members will interview you after they receive the proper request.