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The Department of Public Defense provides attorneys to people who are financially eligible and who are facing certain kinds of criminal and civil proceedings. Generally, the Department of Public Defense provides attorneys to:

  • people who have been charged with a crime and face the possibility of jail time
  • people who could lose their children due to a dependency action
  • people who face involuntary commitment to a mental health facility
  • people with outstanding warrants in any King County court
  • youth who have been charged with an offense or facing other proceedings
  • people who face contempt of court for failure to pay child support
  • people who face civil commitment as sexually violent predators (RCW 71.09)
  • people who would like to get their felony or misdemeanor convictions vacated
If you have questions about whether your qualify for an attorney, call 206-296-7662 or email If you do not qualify for a public defender but need legal help, please see our resources page for information on other free or low-cost legal resources in the area.

More information about eligibility

To receive an attorney, you must qualify as indigent under Washington State law. According to RCW 10.101, a person who is indigent:

  • Receives public assistance (temporary assistance for needy families; aged, blind or disabled assistance benefits; medical care services under RCW 74.09.035; pregnant women assistance benefits, poverty-related veterans' benefits, food stamps or food stamp benefits transferred electronically, refugee resettlement benefits, Medicaid, or supplemental security income); OR
  • Is involuntarily committed to a public mental health facility; OR
  • Receives an annual income, after taxes, of 125 percent or less of the current federally established poverty level (external); OR
  • Is unable to pay the anticipated cost of counsel for the matter before the court because the available funds are insufficient to pay any amount for the retention of counsel.

DPD provides attorneys to adults facing certain charges. You may apply for a public defender if you have been charged with:

  • a felony in King County Superior Court, Domestic Violence Court or Drug Diversion Court
  • a misdemeanor in King County District Court, King County Domestic Violence Court or King County Mental Health Court
  • a misdemeanor in Seattle Municipal Court
  • contempt of court for failing to pay child support in King County Superior Court

You may also apply for a public defender if:

  • the state Department of Social and Health Services has taken away your children in a dependency action in King County Superior Court
  • you are filing a misdemeanor appeal in King County Superior Court
  • you have been involuntarily committed to a mental health facility
  • you have an outstanding warrant in King County
  • you are facing a civil commitment as a sexually violent predator (RCW 71.09)

In juvenile matters, DPD provides an attorney to:

  • youth facing criminal charges in Juvenile Court or Juvenile Drug Court
  • youth facing an at-risk, CHINS or truancy petition
  • youth over the age of 12 in a dependency case
  • legally free children in a dependency case

DPD does not provide attorneys for:

  • civil lawsuits
  • divorce cases
  • child support hearings (except in instances of contempt of court with potential jail time)
  • traffic infractions
  • other civil matters or non-criminal matters
  • cases filed outside of King County