A list of free legal clinics is available on your local and state Bar Association website and through Volunteer Attorney programming. Local entities also offer neighborhood legal services and legal aid clinics. In addition, university law programs offer free legal aid. Consult your local websites and universities for more information. In general, qualifying for free legal aid is based upon a number of factors related to income, health status, safety, location, and civil and/or criminal issues. The following sections provide insight into those categories that are specific to qualifying for legal aid.
If you have been accused of a crime, you may qualify for legal aid. You may be eligible to receive legal services from a court-appointed attorney or public defender. A public defender is a type of lawyer who specializes in representing criminal defendants who are unable to retain fee-based legal services. The constitution guarantees the right of its citizenry to receive legal counsel in certain matters when their liberty is threatened.
If you are poor or needy, as defined by the appropriate court, you may qualify for “indigent representation.” “Under indigent representation, you may have to partially reimburse the court for the cost of legal services given to you” (HireALawyer.com, FindLaw.com, “Do You Qualify for Free Legal Aid? 9/4/2013). Qualifications for court-appointed representation are subject to local laws and vary also by state and different courts. For more information about indigent defense services, which include qualification criteria, refer to a state-by-state directory of public defender offices. The link to the website is available in the references section of this book.
Victim of Domestic Violence
Victims of domestic violence may qualify for free legal aid. Aid is usually available through community-based organizations that also help you gather evidence and file restraining orders. For more information regarding legal aid options available to victims of domestic violence, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).
If your income is considered below the current national average, you may qualify for free legal help. “Most legal aid clinics and pro bono attorneys (private attorneys offering free legal help) serve those whose household income is less than 125 percent of the federally recognized poverty level” (“Do You Qualify for Free Legal Aid?”). The exceptions to this rule are states such as Alaska and Hawaii. These states have a higher income eligibility threshold.
Click here to learn more about IRS legal aid.