Obtaining a Public Defender

Qualifications of Needing a Public Defender

The court will appoint a Public Defender attorney to represent you only if it determines that you cannot afford to hire a private attorney.

A person can make a request for appointment of a Public Defender at any time, but it is best to ask for a Public Defender as soon as you first appear in court.

Once the court agrees to appoint the Public Defender to represent you, the local Chief Public Defender decides which Assistant Public Defender will handle your case. You are unable to choose which Assistant Public Defender handles your case.

In some judicial districts, there is a financial inquiry that occurs before the 1st court hearing; in other districts, the inquiry occurs in court.

Minnesota Public Defender Law

Minnesota law sets out the types of court hearings in which a person has a right to appointment of a Public Defender in court. To learn more about the public defender appointment process in the district where you are facing charges, contact the District Court Administrator or Public Defender's Office in that district.

If, before going to court, an indigent accused person faces interrogation or other police procedures that may affect their rights, a public defender can represent the accused (see Minnesota Statute 611, Subd. 262). To learn more please contact the nearest Public Defender's Office.

Cases Ineligible for Public Defense

There are some kinds of court cases where public defenders never represent people. Just a few examples are:

  • Divorces
  • Landlord-tenant Matters
  • Employment Discrimination Disputes
  • Personal Injury Lawsuits
  • Disputes Over Contracts