Home > The Justice Process > Getting Criminal Legal Aid

Getting Criminal Legal Aid

By: Lorna Elliott LLB (hons), Barrister - Updated: 18 Oct 2016 |
Criminal Offence Charge Court Legal Aid

If you are arrested you have the right to free legal advice from the duty solicitor. There is no means testing for this, which means that you are entitled to have this advice regardless of your financial situation. When you are arrested you will be asked by the police whether you want to speak to a solicitor. If you say no, then you will not have the benefit of legal advice. If you say yes, the police will put a call through to the Defence Solicitor Call Centre and the solicitor who is ‘on call’ for that area will come to the police station. If you already have a solicitor, or wish to use a particular solicitor, they will contact this person on your behalf. As long as your solicitor has a contract with the Legal Services Commission, you will not have to pay for this advice. Most people who are arrested have the right to consult a lawyer before their interview, but those who are charged with certain very serious offences may not have this right until later on.

Before You Are Charged

If you are on bail, or are being investigated for a criminal offence, you may be entitled to Advice and Assistance from a solicitor. This includes letters and telephone calls, general advice and a barrister’s opinion. People who are on Income Support, Jobseeker’s allowance, or guaranteed Pension Credit will be automatically entitled to Advice and Assistance. Other people may also be entitled to this type of legal aid, but it depends on their financial circumstances.

At The Magistrates’ Court

If you are due to appear before a criminal court because you have been charged with an offence, you may be entitled to obtain legal advice and representation by way of a ‘Representation Order.’ People who are charged with minor offences, such as speeding, will not be entitled to this kind of legal aid. This is because the test is whether or not it would be in the ‘interests of justice’ to provide you with state-funded legal aid.

Those who are entitled to a representation order as of right are those in receipt of Job-Seeker’s Allowance, Income Support, guaranteed Pension Credit and anyone under the age of eighteen. If you do not receive any of these benefits, whether you get legal aid depends on your financial circumstances and the number of dependants you have. For example, if your gross income is more than £22,325 and you have no children, you will not get legal aid at the magistrates court.

At the Crown Court

As with the magistrates court, it must be in the interests of justice that you are legally represented and therefore entitled to legal aid. If you are convicted of an offence in the crown court, you may have to pay some of the costs depending on how much you earn and how much money you have by way of savings and other capital.

The New Rules

As of April – June 2010, legal aid in the crown court will become means tested. This means that if you have more than £283 of disposable income each month you will have to make some contributions towards the cost of your legal representation. These payments will have to be made in five instalments. If you are late paying one of the instalments, you will have to pay an extra instalment.

Further, if you are found guilty and you have savings or other capital that total more than £30,000, you may have to use some of this money to pay a contribution towards your legal costs. In the event that you are acquitted, either because you are found not guilty or the case is dropped against you, the contributions you have made will be refunded to you.

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[Add a Comment]
I am on licence for a violent crimeI went to a friend's house were her son started to argue with me my friend called the police because she knew Ihad been to prison for a violent crime even though I did not do anything the son was doing all the shouting and the police just asked me to leave which I did and know further action was required will the police inform my offender manager and if so will this result in a recall
Skip - 10-Oct-16 @ 11:32 PM
My partner was ment to be due HDC release on 16th september but due to no room in BASS housing he has to stay in prison i dont know how long it will take for his release now anyone else had same problem
nessa - 25-Sep-16 @ 6:52 PM
I have been released on life licence. a previous sexual offence against a child, when I myself was a child was brought up at my parole hearing. the panel concluded that I was no sexual risk to children as I myself was a child and there is no evidence to suggest risk and that no licence conditions will be imposed to restrict my access to children. I am low risk to children. since that time I have been informed by probation that my access is restricted because I am on the register and that any contact I have with children will first have to be approved by social services once a referral has went in. I am also informed by my probation that it is likely that any children I do have contact with all their legal guardians will be informed of the offence when I was 14 ,i.e., I have a friend who has children and if I have contact with them they will be looking at informing the other parent about my previous conviction. also that I am not allowed any contact with my friend unless she first gives my probation officer her children's details. Is my probation officer correct in what she is saying? she has said if I do have any contact with children she will recall me on licence condition one, be of good behaviour. it all seems a bit extreme but I do understand that they are just safe guarding. Any advice will be much appreciated on the basis of it or where I should go from here. thanks
lee - 29-Apr-16 @ 1:35 PM
Mary - Your Question:
My son was attending a 995 motion hearing.Durring that hearing he was advised by the defense attorney that he should take the plea bargain.His sentencing hearing was waived.Ifhe would have had a sentencing hearing im sure the sentence would have been reduced because there were circumstances thT wS unknown to the judge.abd there was a report written up for mitigating the sentence.but none of this wS su otted bydefendants attorney.now thT defendant is srrvi g his time can I do anything to reduce the sentencing time calidirnia superior courts

Our Response:
I'm afraid we cannot give advice on Californian law as we are a UK-based site with knowledge of only UK-based laws.
CourtroomAdvice - 22-Jan-16 @ 9:52 AM
My son was attending a 995 motion hearing.Durring that hearing he was advised by the defense attorney that he should take the plea bargain.His sentencing hearing was waived .Ifhe would have had a sentencing hearing im sure the sentence would have been reduced because there were circumstances thT wS unknown to the judge .abd there was a report written up for mitigating the sentence.but none of this wS su otted bydefendants attorney.now thT defendant is srrvi g his time can I do anything to reduce the sentencing time calidirnia superior courts
Mary - 21-Jan-16 @ 8:48 AM
@tgsgr - do you mean you are employed and will be going back to work? If you tell your case manager you are employed and are going back to work, they hey may want to verify your employment, especially as it may be in conflict with your curfew hours.
CourtroomAdvice - 11-Nov-14 @ 11:18 AM
@tgsgr - The Probation Service usually checks the suitability of the accommodation before the application is approved. They might visit the home or make a telephone call to ensure suitability. They need to verify that the people in the house are aware of the request and are willing to accept the implications attached. I hope this helps.
CourtroomAdvice - 10-Nov-14 @ 3:08 PM
How does a case manager verify employment on a home detention?
tgsgr - 10-Nov-14 @ 9:58 AM
Hi, My husband is on Licence after a four year sentence, he was later charged with carrying stolen goods for a friend which only meant he had to serve a 28 day recall, this time 3 weeks ago me and my husband was walking the dog when two ppo officers approached us and immediatley searched us i suspected the where searching for drugs? anyway i had a peice of my belt buckle in my pocket that i'd taken off my belt which looked like an 'offensive weapon' i then plaed it on the bench we where sat on and my husband was immediatley arrested, my husband was then taken in to custody and then straigh to crown court the next morning which he was then sentenced to two months? but now the probation service are tellinghim he is serving the rest of his licence whick is a 12 month and 6 day sentence? how is this possible? is there any way out of an innoncent man walking his dog with his wife?please help???? or give me any advice????
Charlotte-Louise - 27-Aug-14 @ 1:57 PM
i been charge with breach of the peace and been told i can not get any help leagal advice i am worried that being force into agreeing being bond over and dont agree with this decison i also read that if dont agree to be bond over that this could lead to being in prsion could you please confrim or adviase what is the best course of action i can take
law - 1-Aug-14 @ 3:22 PM
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