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
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 DPD 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.
Will I see an attorney when I come to DPD?
No. The Department of Public Defense decides if you qualify for a public defender. If you do, you will be given the name of a DPD Division
. Four business days later you can call that division 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 DPD's hours?
8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday at the King County Courthouse in Seattle and the Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent. 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. Hours are 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at Juvenile Court on East Alder in Seattle. 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 DPD 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. DPD will provide an attorney to represent the defendant at arraignment.
Will there be an attorney at my arraignment?
There will be an attorney at arraignment to represent you. However, that attorney will generally not continue with your case. If you are out of custody, you will need to complete a financial screening at the DPD office to find out if you are qualified to receive a public defender. If possible, you should come into the DPD office to complete this screening before your arraignment.
How do I find out the name of my attorney?
At the time of your financial screening, the DPD interviewer will give you the name of the public defense division you have been assigned to. We will also give the division your case. That division will assign an individual attorney to represent you. Four business days after your assignment you can call the division to find out the name of your attorney. A list of the divisions and their phone numbers can be found on the DPD Divisions
If you have been assigned an attorney but have forgotten his or her name, call the attorney’s division; someone there will be able to tell you your attorney’s name. If you can’t remember the name of the division, call DPD’s general number – 296-7662. The receptionist will be able to help you.
Can I use the same public defender if I get scheduled for a review hearing on a previous charge?
DPD does its best to reassign returning clients to the same public defender division, 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, call the DPD Division, ask for your attorney's supervisor, and talk with him or her about any problems with your attorney. Many problems can be resolved by the attorney's supervisor. If the supervisor cannot resolve the problem, you should send a letter in writing to the DPD Complaint Service Coordinator. Please see our complaints
info page for more information.
Can I pick my own attorney?
No. DPD assigns your case to one of the four divisions based upon availability and legal requirements. The division is then responsible for assigning your attorney.
Does DPD handle 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), in Seattle to be screened for a public defender. The phone number is 206-733-9753.
Do you handle civil lawsuits or divorces?
No. The Department of Public Defense handles only criminal, jailable charges in the King County courts. See Resources
for civil legal aid agencies in the area.
If Child Protective Services (CPS) is taking my children from me, can I get a public defender?
The Department 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, DPD does not handle child support hearings. However, if you are being held in "contempt of court" for failing to pay child support, DPD 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 Department of Public Defense handle appeals?
DPD 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?
DPD 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 DPD 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?