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How do I get a public defender?

Lakeland, FL |
Filed under: Criminal defense

I have a court date for a month from now, and I am wondering whether I go to the public defender’s office now and apply for a public defender, or do I have to wait for my first court date to request a defender?

Attorney Answers 4


Well, everyone is correct in a sense. You can download the pdf. Some of the court clerks have them on their websites. The criteria are given in Florida Statutes, Chapter 27.52(2). It is a bit wordy.

Federal Poverty Guidelines also apply. The Public Defender application fee is $50.

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According to the website for a Public Defender in FL, judges assign the public defender after evaluating financial eligibility.

It appears you have to wait. Perhaps you could contact the local Public Defender's Office to find out if you might even be eligible, or if this is actually the procedure. (If you are not eligible financially, i.e., you are not poor enough, you will have to hire an attorney, so it would be good to know that soon so you can start looking.)

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I would disregard the answer from Ms. Gillies which suggests that you contact the local Public Defender’s Office to find out whether you are eligible.

In Florida, you are screened at your first appearance to see if you qualify for the Public Defender. This inquiry must be done by a judge and not the Public Defender's office. The first issue is whether you qualify for the need for a Public Defender; i.e., whether you looking at jail time. If yes, then you are allowed to be considered for the appointment of the Public Defender. A financial inquiry is made into your ability to afford a lawyer. This is done based upon income, those who depend on you for their financial well-being, and assets you may own. The specifics are based upon a formula set forth by statute.

In the interim, don't commit any new crimes and don't discuss your case with anyone until you are either ordered to hire an attorney, are appointed an attorney, or elect to represent yourself.

Best of luck.

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Thank you, Mr. Arnold.

I was thinking there might be some way for the poster to find out ahead of time whether he or she might be required to hire an attorney rather than be assigned to the Public Defender as an indigent person. Apparently not. That's unfortunate. It seems that would be a good thing to know ahead of time so that one could get a head start on saving for a retainer if needed.

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