All individuals arrested or accused of an offense in Pennsylvania have a broad and unqualified right to have the assistance of counsel for their defense. The right to counsel includes the right to representation, even if the accused is indigent and cannot afford counsel. The right of an indigent defendant to appointment of counsel is not as broad and unqualified, however, as the right to assistance of privately retained counsel. In other words, a defendant has the right to procure the assistance of counsel at some criminal proceedings at which the state is not obligated to furnish counsel for the indigent accused.
The Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution do not require that indigent criminal defendants be afforded the assistance of appointed counsel for their defense unless they are to be sentenced to a term of imprisonment.
In a prosecution for a summary offense, which carries a fine but does not carry a prison sentence, indigent defendants are not entitled to court-appointed counsel. This is true even if a default in the payment of the fine could result in imprisonment.
Although entitled to free counsel, indigent defendants do not have the right to the appointment of defense counsel of their choice.
Pecunious defendants who were erroneously represented by a public defender may be required to reimburse the county for their attorney fees.
To determine if defendants are eligible for the services of the Public Defender, they must first complete an Application for Assignment of Counsel in the county where the criminal allegations have originated; provide verification of TOTAL household income, total number of persons living in the household and any and all assets; and copies of the charges filed against them. All of these factors determine if they are eligible for the services of the Public Defender’s Office.
for online interactive application for Assignment of Counsel Form
A defendant must be given the opportunity to retain counsel, and indigent defendants must be afforded court-appointed counsel in any case in which they are to be imprisoned. Persons charged with a criminal offense, which carries a potential for imprisonment, are not, however, entitled to appointed counsel.
Anyone questioned by the police as a suspect of a crime has the right to say: "I do not talk to anyone about my case, answer questions or reply to accusations. Call my attorney if you want to ask me any questions, search my property or me, do any line-ups or any other identification procedures. I do not agree to any of these things without my lawyer present, and I do not want to waive any of my constitutional rights."
Please note that anyone stopped for a suspected DUI cannot be compelled to take a breath or blood alcohol test; however, those who refuse to take a test will have their driver’s license suspended for one year under the Pennsylvania motor vehicle code.
An Application for Assignment of Counsel may be obtained from the Public Defender’s Office, the office of the presiding District Judge or the Greene County Prison. Anyone residing outside of Greene County may call the Public Defender’s Office and request that an application be mailed.
Completed applications must be returned to the Public Defender’s Office. At that time, the required financial information and copies of any and all paperwork from the presiding District Judge must be provided. Once an application is received, it will be processed to determine if the applicant qualifies for the services of the Public Defender. The applicant will then be notified of whether the application was approved or denied. If approved, the applicant will be notified of the attorney assigned to the case and how that attorney may be contacted.
Applicants who change their addresses must notify the appropriate court, the Probation Office (if applicable) and their attorneys.