Are You Entitled to a Criminal Public Defender in Arizona?

criminal public defenderWe’ve all seen the movies and the scenes in which defendants get introduced to their public attorney. Does this happen only in films? Is a public defender a real thing and who is entitled to such legal representation?

Your Legal Rights in Arizona

Knowing your legal rights is very important, whether you’re facing criminal charges or not.

Everyone has the right to an attorney across the US. It doesn’t matter if defendants have the finances to afford legal services or not. Those who cannot afford to hire a lawyer will get a court-appointed attorney to represent them.

This right applies to all the situations in which the defendant faces the possibility of jail time.

The state of Arizona does have qualification requirements for this program. Just because you do not want to hire a criminal defense attorney does not mean you will be assigned a court-appointed legal representative.

Qualification Requirements

Public defenders are appointed only in instances when individuals cannot afford to hire their own attorney.

In Arizona, the state will conduct a means test to determine if a defendant is eligible for a court-appointed public defendant. To pass the means test, an individual will need to have income that’s lower than the median for the state.

In other words, the state wants to make sure your disposable income is insufficient to get access to legal services on your own.

There are also specific cases that make defendants eligible for a public defender. A few of these cases include the following:

  • Mental health hearings concerning release recommendations/conditions
  • Appeals to higher court
  • Justice court cases
  • Involuntary commitment hearings
  • Extradition hearings
  • Mental disorder hearings

It’s important to understand, however, that just because you are facing the specific type of court case does not mean you’ll be granted a court-appointed public-defender. The additional conditions will still apply and depending on your income level, you may be denied such an opportunity

Public Defense in Misdemeanor Cases?

Generally speaking, the Arizona court will not appoint public defense in misdemeanor cases that do not involve jail time.

Charges that carry a mandatory jail sentence like driving under the influence (DUI) are an exception. In such instances, the misdemeanor charges are linked to jail time, which means that the defendant is entitled to a court-appointed public lawyer if they cannot afford to hire an attorney.

If you have questions about the procedure and the qualification requirements, you can get in touch with the Arizona Public Defenders Association.  This page features the addresses and phones of local public defender offices or programs you can approach to discuss the specifics of your case.

Click her for a brief on obtaining a public defender in Arizona.

What to Do If You Don’t Qualify for the Program?

Even people who pass the Arizona means test can find it difficult to hire an attorney to represent them in a criminal case.

There’s a perceived high price tag that comes with legal services. As a result, many people will not even pursue such an opportunity because they’ll be too afraid of the associated expenses.

If you are turned down on the basis of the means test, you can request court reconsideration. Providing evidence that you have serious financial obligations that limit your disposable income could eventually help you qualify for a court-appointed public defender.

The request for reconsideration, however, may be denied. In such instances, you will have to explore the alternatives.

Many criminal defense attorneys in Arizona offer a free of charge first consultation. You can use this opportunity to discuss the specifics of your case and to determine how much legal representation is going to cost you. It may turn out that hiring a lawyer is not as expensive as you initially considered it to be.

Click here for information on criminal negligent homicide in Arizona.