You are entitled to appointed counsel in the following circumstances:
- For any charge that carries the possibility of an active sentence or a fine of more than $500
- For a juvenile delinquency proceeding (see Juvenile Defender)
- If the State has taken your children in a DSS proceeding (see Parent Rep)
- In a direct appeal of a criminal conviction and in some post-conviction proceedings (see Appellate Defender)
- If you are civilly committed (see Special Counsel)
For the types of cases below:
- Traffic Infractions
- Parking Tickets
- DMV hearings
- Divorce, equitable distribution and child custody
- Petitioning the court to return property after the disposition of a case
- Most civil matters where you want to sue someone or someone is suing you, including small claims, districts and superior courts and any appeals from these civil courts
- Gun permits or denial or gun permits
(See groups that offer assistance)
You ask. For a pending criminal case, the usual process is for the judge at your first court appearance to offer you three choices about counsel:
- Request court-appointed counsel;
- Find, hire, and pay for your own attorney; or
- Represent yourself.
If you ask for court-appointed counsel, you must fill out an affidavit of indigency. This is a paper on which you tell the court how much money you have, what assets (a car, a house) you have and what you pay for rent, child support and other expenses. You will swear that your answers are true and could be prosecuted for perjury of you lie about any of these things. The court will review this affidavit of indigency and either approve your request or deny it.
No. If you plead guilty or are found guilty or if you are not successful in your appeal for which you have an appointed attorney, you may be required to pay back the State which pays your attorney, plus the $75 fee for having an appointed attorney. (See the page about attorney fees for more detailed information.) NOTE: if you are a juvenile in juvenile court, your parents/guardians are responsible for any attorney fees. See the Juvenile Defender site.