How to Get the Public Defender

If you are charged with a crime and can’t afford to hire a lawyer, then you should ask that a public defender be appointed to represent you.  Below you will find step-by-step instructions for how to do this in Coles County.  The procedure may be different in your county and the best default advice I can give you is that on the date of your first court appearance you should arrive at the courthouse early and speak to a bailiff.  The bailiff will let you know what you need to do in order to request a public defender.

  1. Go to court.  You will not be able to get a public defender prior to your first court appearance.  Your bond sheet, ticket, or summons will have a court date on it.  Go to court on that date and find the courtroom your case will be heard in.  If you need help finding your courtroom, ask a courthouse security officer on your way in.  You will know you are in the right courtroom if your name (and case number) is posted on the door of the courtroom.
  2. Locate the bailiff.  The bailiff in your courtroom will give you an affidavit you will need to complete if you want the judge to consider your request for the public defender.  The bailiff will be wearing a jacket, tie, and a bailiff’s badge.  A courthouse security officer may also be serving as a bailiff.  These are uniformed police officers.
  3. Fill out the affidavit.  Fill out the affidavit as completely as you are able to and then sign it.  The affidavit will have blanks for various personal and financial information.  The amount of money you earn each month is a key piece of information that the prosecutor and judge will want to know.  Coles County doesn’t place its court forms online, but Cook County does.  Click here (.pdf) to see a Cook County form that is similar to the form you will fill out in Coles County.
  4. Return the affidavit to the bailiff.  The bailiff will give the affidavit to the prosecutor to review and then either the prosecutor or the bailiff will give the affidavit to the judge when your case is called.  If the prosecutor thinks that you make too much money and that you should not receive the public defender, the prosecutor will object to you receiving the public defender.
  5. Go to the defendant’s table when your case is called.  This will be the empty table next to the table where the prosecutor is seated.  The judge will review your affidavit and ask you questions about the affidavit if he or she has any.  The judge will then appoint the public defender if he or she thinks you qualify for the public defender.
  6. Receive the public defender.  If the public defender is present in the courtroom, he or she will join you at the table.  If the public defender is not present, then the Court will give you the public defender’s contact information and send the public defender notice that you are his or her client.

Jeremy Richey

1 Response to “How to Get the Public Defender”

  1. 1 Shalini October 1, 2008 at 2:20 pm

    Jeremy, this would make a perfect How to Guide on Avvo.

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Jeremy J. Richey, Attorney at Law
© Jeremy J. Richey and The East Central Illinois Criminal Law & DUI Weblog, 2008-2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.