All adult applicants for public defender representation are required by state law to meet strict financial guidelines to qualify for appointment of an attorney by the State Public Defender, other than in proceedings under chapters 51 and 55. In the Trial Division, staff of the State Public Defender assist applicants by asking them the pertinent questions and completing the financial form. Information provided during this process is subject to verification for accuracy.
Applicants may apply at the local State Public Defender office that serves the county in which the case will be heard (see Directory for addresses, telephone numbers, and geographical coverage of local offices). The application process typically takes about 15 minutes, although in some cases the applicant needs to provide documents to verify specific information.
The eligibility determination considers the applicant's income and assets (including spousal income and assets), family size, essential expenses beyond ordinary living expenses, and the type of case for which the applicant seeks representation.
If the applicant qualifies for public defender representation, he or she is given the information on attorney fees (see section on Fee for Trial Representation). An attorney is assigned to the case, either a State Public Defender staff attorney or a private attorney certified by the State Public Defender to provide representation in the applicable type of case.
If the applicant is not eligible for public defender representation, he or she may apply to the court for appointment of an attorney at county expense. The staff of the State Public Defender can provide information regarding the process in the local county for seeking a court-appointed attorney.