The attorneys on this site are private attorneys. However, you qualify for the assistance of the public defender if you only earn a certain amount of money. If you make too much money, you may still qualify but will be ordered to contribute to your own defense by paying something.
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My colleague is correct. You can apply for PD. The court will determine if you must contribute to defense.
ANDREW ROBERTS CRIMINAL AND TRAFFIC TICKET DEFENSE ATTORNEY
It is not a matter of a specific threshold. It is a determination of income and expenses for basic needs. Most people qualify for a public defender. However, as both of my colleagues correctly note, the court can order contribution to the cost of the public defender.
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The fact that you are requesting "the income threshold to qualify" tells me you probably already know the answer:) It all depends. If you need the help of the public defender's office, really need it and you are not just trying to save some money, there is a little to zero chance you will be turned away. What is important is to know that whatever your income level you will be provided with an attorney at your first appearance. You may have to contribute to his/her fees later? But you will have a fully competent attorney to help you from the beginning to the end.
The other attorneys are correct in stating that the court will likely appoint you counsel if your declaration regarding income indicates that you can't afford private counsel. One issue is that following appointment of a public defender, the court can and often does impose a fee that it awards to the public defender for representing you. Sometimes that fee is nominal ($75) but sometimes it can be quite high if the matter proceeds to trial. You have a right to contest the imposition of this fee but this is one area where the PD's office may have an interest that it contrary to your own. Most likely you will not be obliged to pay anything. Good luck.
Don't ask the question just do it, you have nothing to lose.
My name is Stephen R. Cohen and have practiced since 1974. I practice in Los Angeles and Orange County, CA. These answers do not create an attorney client relationship. My answers may offend I believe in telling the truth, I use common sense as well as the law. Other state's laws may differ.. There are a lot of really good attorneys on this site, I will do limited appearances which are preparation of court documents it is , less expensive. However generally I believe an attorney is better than none, but many will offer a free consultation and a face to face meeting generally will be better, I like my clients to write a short one page history of the fact and questions they have prior to meeting with them, so nothing is forgotten.