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 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

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.

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)

WHAT DO I TAKE TO THE DISTRICT COURT COMMISSIONERS OFFICE TO APPLY FOR A 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.

IF I AM IN JAIL, HOW DO I CONTACT THE PUBLIC DEFENDER?

A representative from the Office of the Public Defender regularly visits the local jails in order to find out if anyone is in need of Public Defender attorney services.

WHERE IS THE PUBLIC DEFENDER’S OFFICE?

The Office of the Public Defender maintains local offices throughout the State of Maryland. To locate the Office nearest to you, click on District/County Offices.

WHAT HAPPENS AFTER I HAVE BEEN ASSIGNED TO AN OPD LAWYER?

Once an OPD lawyer is assigned to represent you, that attorney will prepare your case. If you are in jail, a representative from the Public Defender’s Office will visit or call you. Your case will be investigated and your lawyer will meet with you before your court appearance to explain your case to you and to answer all of your questions.

SHOULD I DISCUSS MY CASE WITH ANYONE OTHER THAN MY ASSIGNED OPD LAWYER OR A REPRESENTATIVE FROM THE OFFICE OF THE PUBLIC DEFENDER?

No. It is very important that you do not talk to anyone about your case without your assigned OPD lawyer being present or without him/her giving your permission to do so.

IF I AM ARRESTED, SHOULD I TALK TO THE POLICE?

If you are arrested, you should request to speak to a lawyer and you should obtain advice from a lawyer before answering police questions. For more information on what to do if your are stopped or arrested by the police, click here: http://www.aclu.org/police/gen/14528res20040730.html

I FORGOT MY COURT DATE. HOW DO I FIND OUT WHEN IT IS?

If you have just had an “Initial Appearance” in court, you should have been given a sheet of paper that lists the date, time, and location of your next court appearance. If you do not have that paperwork, you can call the Court Clerk’s Office or contact your own attorney or the local Office of the Public Defender for assistance.

HOW DO I GET AN OLD CASE REMOVED FROM MY RECORD?

You can get information on how to have court records removed from public inspection, or “expungement,” on the Maryland Courts website: http://www.courts.state.md.us/expungement/