If you are charged with a crime and cannot afford to hire a lawyer, you should ask for a public defender. Courts will appoint a lawyer free of charge, for any criminal case that could result in incarceration.
HOW DO I APPLY FOR A PUBLIC DEFENDER FOR MY NEW CHARGES?
Starting October 1, 2017, you must see a District Court Commissioner in any District Court Commissioner’s Office for certain types of cases to apply for Public Defender representation. A new Maryland law now requires the District Court Commissioner to determine who is eligible for Public Defender services for cases involving possible incarceration if convicted. Additional information can be found online.
You must apply to the District Court Commissioner if you want a Public Defender for one or more of the following cases:
A pending criminal or traffic charge (that is punishable by incarceration)
VOP - violation of probation hearing (if brought before a commissioner)
Civil and criminal contempt (that is punishable by incarceration)(i.e. child support)
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 (not punishable by 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 not previously represented by the Office of the Public Defender for that case)
Mental Health Cases where resulting is committed to a mental health facility (involuntary commitment, NCR reviews, IST reviews)
IF YOU ARE ALREADY INCARCERATED: You must write to the District Court Commissioner’s Office for an application.
IF YOU WERE RELEASED FROM DETENTION OR I RECEIVED A SUMMONS IN THE MAIL: Go 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: Tell the District Court Commissioner every case number that you have. The Commissioner can determine your eligibility for each case. You do not need to apply in every county. You need to only visit one District Court Commissioner’s office in any county in the state.
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.
WHERE ARE THE DISTRICT COURT COMMISSIONER OFFICES?
You may apply at any District Court Commissioner’s Office in the state.
You must take the following documents with you (if you have them) to the District Court Commissioner’s office:
Benefits letters (social security, food stamps, other public assistance)
Identification (I.D. card or driver’s license)
Court case numbers
Charging documents (statement of probable cause)
You may fill out the application form and related documents ahead of time. It can be downloaded online
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What should I do if I have an open warrant? Contact the Public Defender’s Office to verify whether you are still represented by us. If not, then you will you will have to go to the Commissioner’s office to get qualified.
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. If not, you need to apply.
What if I already have a Public Defender 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.
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.