The appointment of counsel process in North Carolina normally includes executing of an "Affidavit of Indigency." http://forms.lp.findlaw.com/form/courtforms/state/nc/nc000502.pdf (http://forms.lp.findlaw.com/form/courtforms/state/nc/nc000502.pdf)
As noted within the application for legal counsel, the Court will review financial information such as income & expenses prior to making a determination of "indegency" and Ordering representation.
Appointed attorneys, whether through an Office of the Public Defender or private attorney on a contract basis, are NOT necessarily free. If convicted of an offense, the Court may order restitution to the State of North Carolina for the fees associated with legal representation.
The North Carolina General Assembly laws regarding Indigency are found in Chapter 7A-450