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How Does The State Determine If I Am Indigent



Should you find yourself in the need of an attorney you will quickly realize how expensive they can be. Our Constitution guarantees the right to counsel, which means that those who cannot afford it receive representation paid for by taxpayers. In order to decide if you qualify for appointed counsel, the state must first determine if you are indigent or not.

What Does Indigent Mean

Indigent means to be a poor or needy person. Our laws look at how much money a person has, how much debt they have and how many assets they have to determine whether or not they can afford to hire their own representation or if they need a court-appointed attorney to represent them.

How Do They Find Someone Indigent

Each state, and even each county in each state, have different processes that they go through to determine indigency. Typically, the defendant must fill out a financial statement that asks:

  • Do you have a job?
  • How much do you make per month?
  • What bills do you have?
  • Do you own or rent your home?
  • Do you own a car?

Along with the financial statement, you will usually also have to include supporting documents like a mortgage receipt, car title, or check stub. You will also need to file a "Motion for Assignment of Counsel" with the court that asks for a court-appointed lawyer. You will attend a hearing where a judge will review your financial statement and compare it to the state or county laws that govern court-appointed counsel requirements. If you qualify, the judge will appoint an attorney to you. This process occurs very quickly, and usually you will know who your attorney is by the end of the hearing. In other jurisdictions, they can notify you of your attorney via mail.

Many people qualify for and receive indigent counsel. In order to determine your eligibility, the court will review your financial situation and your request for appointed counsel. If your financial circumstances deem you appropriate for appointed counsel according to applicable laws, the court will appoint an attorney and notify you as soon as possible.