Who is eligible for a public defender?

by Jon Sinclair, Lawyer Referral Service Panelist

Most of us have seen and heard on law-themed TV shows law enforcement officers reading the “Miranda Rights” to the people they are arresting. It truly is a hallmark of our American justice system that all persons charged with a crime in the United States are guaranteed the right to counsel under the Sixth Amendment. If you can’t afford an attorney, an attorney will be appointed for you. This appointed attorney is known as a public defender, who is paid by the state and/or county to “provide zealous, effective and ethical representation.” Generally speaking, you are eligible for a public defender if you are a juvenile or are an adult charged with a crime in which prison time may be required and you are considered “indigent,” that is, meet certain financial eligibility requirements based on the poverty level developed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  (See chart at http://www.opd.ohio.gov/Reimbursement/rm_Guide.htm.) For more information on the role of the public defender, visit the Hamilton County Public Defenders website at http://www.hamilton-co.org/pub_def/default.htm.

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