Are you charged with a felony and concerned because you do not have money to hire an attorney? This guide seeks to review the qualifications to receive a public defender or an appointed lawyer and the steps you need to take to do so.
Arraignment or First Appearance-- Request Counsel
After charges have been initiated against you in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, you will receive a summons to appear for an arraignment or first appearance. If you are in jail, this will likely take place over a closed circuit television, with the assistance of a public defender. If you are not, you will need to appear on the 12th Floor of the Cuyahoga County Justice Center, located at 1200 Ontario Street, Cleveland, Ohio 44113. The next thing that will happen is that your case will be called. If you are in jail, the public defender will have spoken to you, and will handle your arraignment. If you cannot afford counsel, he will likely ask the arraigning judge to assign you a lawyer. If you are not in jail, the arraigning judge will walk you through the arraignment process, and will conclude by asking you if you can afford to hire an attorney. If you inform the arraigning judge that you cannot afford to hire an attorney, they will likely appoint you an attorney.
Qualifying for Appointed Counsel
As the Miranda Rights say, "if you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be appointed to you." This means that not everyone automatically receives an appointed attorney. Whether you are indigent and qualify for appointed counsel is dependent on the amount of income you have, relative to the poverty level. In Ohio, this is governed by Administrative Code 120-1-03(J), which allows counties to set their own guidelines for clients to qualify for appointed counsel. The guidelines must allow that the applicants income has a max of between 125% and 187.5% of the poverty level.
Knowing what the poverty level is, or what your exact income is on demand might be difficult. However, there are a number of circumstances which allow the applicant to be presumed eligible for appointed counsel. These include: (1) receiving Ohio Works First or Temporary Aid to Needy Families; (2) receiving Social Security Insurance or Social Security Disability; (3) receiving Medicaid; (4) receiving poverty related veterans' benefits; (5) receiving food stamps; (6) receiving refugee settlement benefits; (7) being incarcerated in a state penitentiary; (8) being committed to a public mental health facility; and (9) being a juvenile.
Fees Associated With Appointed Counsel
In Cuyahoga County, you will be assessed a $25 fee in regards to appointed counsel. However, you will never be denied representation due to an inability to pay this fee. If at some point in your legal process, you become able to pay for counsel, you may be required to pay for part of all of your representation.
Financial Disclosure / Affidavit of Indigency
At some point in your legal process, your appointed attorney will ask you to fill out a financial disclosure form and affidavit of indigency. This form will ask for details including, but not limited to your name, address, date of birth, persons living in your home, income, and a list of any assets you have. It will also ask you if you qualify for any of the presumptive eligibility programs. You will also be asked to sign an affidavit indicating that everything you stated is true and accurate to the best of your ability. This form will ultimately be notorized and filed with Cuyahoga County.
Quality of Representation
Many clients ponder whether they will receive quality representation from an appointed attorney or public defender. These lawyers are ethically bound to provide you with the same services, and quality of representation as they would to any other client. If you are unable to hire counsel, you will ultimately be in good hands. However, as always, if you have the means to hire an attorney, you should do so.
Our Rating is calculated using information the lawyer has included on
their profile in addition to the information we collect from state
bar associations and other organizations that license legal
professionals. Attorneys who claim their profiles and provide Avvo
with more information tend to have a higher rating than those who do
What determines Avvo Rating?
Experience & background
Years licensed, work experience, education
Legal community recognition
Peer endorsements, associations, awards
Legal thought leadership
Publications, speaking engagements
This lawyer was disciplined by a state licensing authority in .
Disciplinary information may not be comprehensive, or updated. We recommend that you always check a lawyer's disciplinary status with their respective state bar association before hiring them.