When you are accused of a crime, or are embroiled in some kind of legal dispute, but you don't have the money to pay a lawyer, you can avail yourself of some free legal services. If you don't know what these free services entail, here's a quick breakdown of what's out there to help you resolve legal issues.
Public Defender - A public defender is a court-appointed lawyer who is assigned to your case after you inform the court that you can't afford to pay for your legal defence. Public defenders are only available if you have been accused of a criminal offence. Once it's determined through a review of your financial records that you are unable to pay for a private lawyer, a public defender will take up your case, review the documents and prepare a defence for you in the same manner as a private lawyer. Public defenders are paid by the government, and they are trained legal professionals who are experienced in a diverse number of legal issues. Public defenders are also available to you if you are appealing a court verdict, and can't afford to hire an appeals lawyer to file the petition on your behalf.
Duty Lawyer - A duty lawyer is a legal professional who works for an Australian legal aid foundation, and has the exclusive duty of representing you when you are first brought in to face the judge in a criminal matter, following your arrest. Unlike a public defender, who remains on your case for the duration, a duty lawyer's role is to help you answer a judge's questions at your first hearing, attempt to obtain bail on your behalf, advise you on how to plea to the charges against you, advise you on the possible legal outcomes based on the charges and answer any questions from the judge if you choose to plead guilty, so that none of your words can be later used against you when you obtain a private lawyer or are assigned a public defender. Duty lawyers are beneficial if you can't hire a private lawyer immediately after arrest, or if you want immediate legal advice prior to making a plea on your case.
Pro Bono Lawyer - A pro bono lawyer is a legal service professional who works for a private law firm (such as Adams & Co Lawyers Pty Ltd), but donates his time and services to those who can't afford to pay. Unlike a public defender, a pro bono lawyer isn't assigned to you by the court, and doesn't work for the public defender's office. A pro bono lawyer is a private lawyer and will work on your case for free, providing you the same level of service he would for a high-paying client. Most major legal firms have a pro bono department with a staff of rotating lawyers who take turns offering free legal aid. Pro bono legal services can range from simple legal advice to a full defence against criminal charges, or even acting as a plaintiff in a suit against a company for negligence.Share
19 February 2015
I love reading novels that involve complex legal cases. I particularly enjoy those that are told from the defendant's viewpoint, but any well-written legal fiction will capture my imagination. My interest comes from being a court stenographer when I was much younger and seeing the dramas in real-life! Nothing irritates me more than a novel which includes legal fallacies. Fiction or not, I am a stickler for accuracy. I like to do research and check if a court case in one of my novels could play out in real life. It has become quite a hobby and I spend a lot of time in the law section of my university's library. I'm sure there are other people who are interested in the law for various reasons and I would like to share some of the knowledge I've gained. I hope you find my blog fascinating and worthwhile.