The Erie County Public Defender is responsible for providing legal advice and representation for individuals who are financially unable to retain legal counsel and who are in jeopardy of losing their freedom.
In Erie County, eligibility for appointed counsel is based on the federal poverty guidelines. Income, family financial responsibilities, property interest and the nature of the charges are all considered in determining an applicant’s qualification for free legal representation. You will have to disclose your income and your assets. A public defender will be appointed if it is determined that you do not have the ability to retain your own lawyer and you are charged with a felony or a misdemeanor, a summary offense for which the District Justice has indicated that incarceration may be imposed, contempt of court, or a summary offense that carries a mandatory sentence of incarceration. Further the Erie County Public Defender provides representation to individuals facing state or county parole or probation revocation or are subject to commitment proceedings under the Mental Health Procedures Act.
The seriousness of the charge and the availability of resources available to hire a private attorney will determine whether an applicant qualifies for a public defender. Each case is evaluated individually.
When an applicant qualifies for representation and becomes a client of the public defender’s office, there is no charge for representation. Furthermore, the client will be charged no filing fees for any legal papers filed in the case although the client may be charged for restitution and court costs should he be found guilty. The Erie County Public Defender accepts client applications Monday through Friday from 8:30 am until 4:00 pm or by mail.
If applying in person, applicants must bring a copy of the charges and verification of income or support. If applying by mail, applicants must likewise include copies of the charges and income verification. Note that originals will not be returned so applicants who apply by mail should send only copies of supporting documents.
Metered parking is located on Sassafras Street in front of the office.