Frequently Asked Questions for Clients
Q: Can the Public Defender help me?
A: If your situation involves a state crime and you can’t hire a lawyer the Public Defender might be able to represent you.
If your legal problems do not involve a state criminal case the Public Defender can’t help you. The Public Defender can, however, represent indigent juveniles in delinquency proceedings.
The Missouri State Public Defender System cannot handle some cases:
- No Municipal Court cases
- No child custody cases
- No divorces or dissolutions
- No immigration or deportation cases
- No landlord-tenant or rent cases
- No civil cases involving money damages
Q: How do I apply to get a Public Defender?
A: The application process begins with a written Application for Services that must be completed by the person seeking representation. You can apply for Public Defender representation at the local office that serves the county in which the case or charges are pending. Check the list of local Offices and Contacts. The Map of Districts shows the counties they serve. The clerk of the court in which your case is pending can also tell you how to get in touch with the local Public Defender office. The sheriff’s office can often supply an application to a person in jail, or you can download the Application for Services (pdf*) here. An application in Spanish (pdf*) is available for download here.
Q: How do I find out if I’m approved to have a Public Defender represent me?
A: A representative of our office will review your application and possibly request additional information. Based on this information, we will make a determination whether you are eligible for Public Defender representation. If the application is turned down, it is because the case is not a case we can handle or the applicant is not indigent according to the financial guidelines of the Missouri State Public Defender System.
If the application is denied, the determination of indigency can be appealed to the judge of the court in which the case is pending. The Public Defender office can tell you how to appeal the determination in your county.
Q: Will I have to pay for a Public Defender?
A: Yes. The law requires the Public Defender to seek repayment for the value and costs of representation in most cases, but payment is not required “up front” for the Public Defender to provide representation. The amount and manner of repayment will be explained as part of the application process. Generally, the Public Defender will seek reimbursement for the value of representation from a chart called the fee schedule.
Fees, listed in the Fee Schedule, are based on the type of case and the manner in which the case is resolved.
Q: How do I contact a Public Defender?
*The Application for Services requires the free
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