What do I need to bring with me to apply for a lawyer?
You must bring:
- Your court summons, which should show your case number, charge, next court date and type of hearing scheduled
- Pay stubs from the last three months
- Your most recent bank statement
- A copy of your most recent income tax return
- Any items that show you are receiving public assistance or unemployment compensation
- $25 for a processing fee, payable by cash or check
Is there a processing fee for all types of cases?
Yes, as of August 1, 2008, OPD will collect a $25 fee for District Court cases in addition to Superior Court cases. Assignment of counsel to qualifying applicants will not be denied due to inability to pay the fee at screening. This fee assessment in District Court is identical to the OPD screening fee in Superior Court cases and consistent with county code.
What if I don't have $25 for a processing fee?
You may still come in for an interview. You will sign a promissory note for the $25, which will give you one to two months to pay.
Aren't public defenders supposed to be free?
Public defenders are free if you are determined to be indigent (please see our eligiblity page, Who We Serve
, to find out if you qualify). If you have enough money that you are not considered indigent, but not enough to afford your own attorney, you are considered “able to contribute.” In this case, the OPD screener will have you sign a promissory note to help defray the cost of the attorney, which can be paid back over a period of months. In either case, under county law you still must pay the $25 processing fee.
Will I see an attorney when I come to OPD?
No. The Office of Public Defense decides if you qualify for a public defender. If you do, you will be given the name of a Public Defender Agency
. Four business days later you can call that agency and find out the name and phone number of the attorney who has been assigned to your case.
How can I speak to an attorney today?
You can call the Attorney of the Day at 206-447-3900
, press "0" for the operator, Monday through Friday from 12:15 – 1pm to receive general legal advice. You can also refer to our Resource Links
for other legal help.
What are OPD's hours?
8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. You must have your court summons with you if you arrive after 4:15 p.m. for an interview or you will need to return the next day with your court summons. No appointment is necessary.
Can I get a telephone interview?
Only if you are outside of the area served by public transportation or are in the County Jail.
How do I get a public defender if I am in the King County jail?
If you are being held on a misdemeanor charge, call the OPD office during business hours at 206-296-7662
to arrange a phone interview. If you are being held on a felony charge, an attorney will be assigned to you for your arraignment.
What is an arraignment?
A court hearing where the defendant is asked to plead guilty or not guilty to the charges. OPD will provide an attorney to represent the defendant at arraignment.
Will there be an attorney at my arraignment?
An OPD screener is available at all Superior and District Court arraignments. There will be an attorney there to represent you.
How do I find out the name of my attorney?
At the time of your financial screening, the OPD interviewer will give you the name of the public defense agency you have been assigned to. We will also give the agency your case. They will assign an individual attorney to represent you. Four business days after your assignment you can call the agency to find out the name of your attorney. A list of the agencies and their phone numbers can be found on the Public Defender Agencies
Can I use the same public defender if I get scheduled for a review hearing on a previous charge?
OPD does its best to reassign returning clients to the same public defender agency, whenever possible. If you are scheduled for a review hearing, you must have a financial screening to see if you still qualify for a public defender if it’s been more than 180 days since your last screening. If you’ve been screened in the past 180 days you do not need to be re-screened.
I don't like the attorney you assigned me. How can I get a different one?
If you have a legitimate complaint about your attorney, send a letter in writing to the OPD Complaint Service Coordinator. Please see our complaints
info page for more information.
Can I pick my own attorney?
No. OPD assigns your case to one of the four defender agencies based upon availability and legal requirements. The agency is then responsible for assigning your attorney.
Does OPD handle Seattle Municipal Court cases?
No, as of April 2006, OPD no longer appoints attorneys in Seattle Municipal Court cases. If you have been charged with a crime in Seattle Municipal Court, you can apply for an attorney directly through the court. Please go to the Seattle Justice Center, 600 Fifth Avenue, Second Floor, Room 235 (Day Reporting/Screening Office), Window #3 (Warrants), Seattle, WA 98124 to be screened for a public defender. Their phone number is 206-733-9753
Do you handle civil lawsuits or divorces?
No. The Office of Public Defense handles only criminal, jailable charges in the King County courts. See Resources
for civil legal aid agencies in the area.
If CPS is taking my children from me, can I get a public defender?
The Office of Public Defense does handle dependency cases when CPS is involved. Come in for an interview to one of our offices with your dependency case number, the type of hearing scheduled, and court dates. If you qualify, we will assign you an attorney.
Do you handle child support hearings?
No, OPD does not handle child support hearings. However, if you are being held in "contempt of court" for failing to pay child support, OPD will appoint you an attorney for the contempt issue only. (Contempt of court is a jailable offense.)
Can I get an attorney for a restraining order?
Can I get an attorney for a magistrate hearing?
No. These hearings are for non-jailable offenses, and therefore we cannot appoint a public defender.
Does the Office of the Public Defender handle appeals?
OPD handles misdemeanor appeals only. It does not handle felony appeals.
Who handles felony appeals?
What is the maximum amount I can make to be eligible for a public defender?
OPD uses the state definition of indigency to determine if someone qualifies for a public defender. For more information, see the eligibility
I signed a promissory note to pay for my attorney. How much do I owe?
You can either call OPD at 206-296-7662 or King County Accounts Receivable at 206-296-1494. Please have your case number and account number available when you call.
How can I get my records quashed or sealed?