The Office of the Public Defender

Toll Free: 1-877-430-5187

To contact a specific office, go to the District/County Offices page for detailed information.

OPD Administration

6 Saint Paul Street
Suite 1400
Baltimore, MD 21202

Phone: 410-767-8460
Fax: 410-333-8496
 

APPLY FOR A LAWYER

I NEED AN ATTORNEY! WHAT SHOULD I DO?

If you are charged with a crime and cannot afford to hire a lawyer, you should ask to be referred to the Office of the Public Defender. If a person cannot afford to hire an attorney, courts will appoint a lawyer free of charge, not only for felony cases but also for misdemeanors that can result in incarceration.

The Office of the Public Defender is the largest legal services organization in the state. The Office of the Public Defender provides legal services to eligible individuals through twelve district offices and several specialized divisions throughout Maryland. All Assistant Public Defenders are licensed attorneys who have completed law school and are sworn members of the Maryland Bar. Assistant Public Defenders are widely recognized as among the best criminal defense attorneys in the State of Maryland.

WILL I BE ELIGIBLE FOR AN ATTORNEY FROM THE OFFICE OF THE PUBLIC DEFENDER?

Eligibility for Public Defender services is determined by comparing your financial condition to the Federal Poverty Guidelines. You will be advised after the application process whether you qualify for Public Defender services or not.

HOW DO I APPLY?

Starting October 1, 2017, you must visit any District Court Commissioner’s Office for certain types of cases to apply for Public Defender representation. This change is happening as a result of a new Maryland law requiring the District Court Commissioner to determine who is eligible for Public Defender services for cases where there is a penalty of incarceration if convicted. Additional information can be found online: http://www.mdcourts.gov/district/pdinfo.html.

You must apply to the District Court Commissioner for one or more of the following cases:  
  • A pending criminal or traffic charge that is punishable by confinement
  • VOP - violation of probation hearing
  • Civil and criminal contempt that has a penalty of incarceration
  • An open warrant
If you are unsure whether you have already applied or not or whether you should visit the District Court Commissioner, please ask an assistant in the Office of the Public Defender for more assistance.

You must contact any Public Defender’s Office to apply for the representation in the following cases:
  • A misdemeanor or offense punishable by a fine of MORE THAN $500 (no incarceration)
  • Civil and criminal contempt (if arrested AND not brought before a commissioner)
  • VOP - (if arrested AND not brought before a commissioner)
  • Child in Need of Assistance Cases (CINA) or Termination of Parental Rights
  • Juvenile Court Cases
  • Court of Special Appeals Cases & Court of Appeals Cases
  • Post Conviction Cases
  • Motions for Modification, Health General (8-505/8-507) motions (if you were previously represented by private counsel)
  • Mental Health Cases where resulting is committed to a mental health facility (involuntary commitment, NCR reviews, IST reviews)

HOW DO I APPLY AT THE DISTRICT COURT COMMISSIONERS OFFICE?

You may apply at any District Court Commissioner’s Office in the state. A full list of locations is available here: www.courts.state.md.us/district/directories/commissionermap.html

WHAT TO TAKE TO THE DISTRICT COURT COMMISSIONERS OFFICE TO APPLY FOR PUBLIC DEFENDER REPRESENTATION

 You should take the following documents with you (if you have them) to the District Court Commissioner’s office:

  • Paystubs
  • Benefits letters (social security, food stamps, other public assistance)
  • Identification
  • Case numbers
  • Charging documents (statement of probable cause)

You may fill out the application form ahead of time. It can be downloaded online: http://www.courts.state.md.us/district/forms/general/dc099_102017wm.pdf 

I AM INCARCERATED

If you are incarcerated, you must write to the District Court Commissioner’s Office for an application.

I WAS RELEASED FROM DETENTION OR I RECEIVED A SUMMONS IN THE MAIL

You should report to the District Court Commissioner’s office as soon as possible to determine if you qualify for Public Defender services.

I HAVE MULTIPLE CASES IN MULTIPLE COUNTIES

Be sure to tell the District Court Commissioner every case number that you have. The Commissioner can qualify you for each case. You do not need to visit every county to apply. You need to only visit one District Court Commissioner’s office in any county in the state.

HOW WILL I KNOW IF I QUALIFIED FOR A PUBLIC DEFENDER?

If you qualify for representation, the Commissioner will notify our office immediately. Our office will then open a file and assign your case to an attorney. You do not need to report back to our office after you qualify for services at the District Court Commissioner’s office. We will contact you once your case is assigned to an attorney. However, you may contact us at any time for a status of your case or to schedule an appointment to meet with your attorney.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:

1. What should I do if I have an open warrant?

Check with the public defender’s office to verify whether the office still represents you in the matter. If not, then you will you will have to go to the Commissioner’s office to get qualified.

2. What should I do if I have another case and I do not have an attorney yet for that case?

You may contact the Public Defender’s Office to determine whether you have qualified for that case and whether a file has been opened and assigned.

3. What if I already have an attorney in another Maryland county?

You still need to apply for Public Defender services for each separate case number that you have. You will likely get a different public defender if the case is in a different county.

4. What if I am on parole or probation and I have a new case?

The Commissioner must qualify you for each case. You should contact the Commissioner’s office to apply.