Can I get legal aid for my criminal case?
If you are arrested or are appearing in court, one of the first things you will probably ask yourself is ‘can I get legal aid?’. Fortunately, legal aid is still available for many criminal cases. Whether you are eligible will depend upon what level of assistance you need and what your financial circumstances are.
At the police station
If you are arrested or are being interviewed under caution, all advice and assistance in the police station can be funded by legal aid regardless of your income.
Many other agencies, such as the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), interview people before starting court proceedings. In many cases legal aid is available, depending upon your financial circumstances.
If you are not financially eligible then you can pay privately to be represented. Contact us or call us on 020 7388 1658 and speak to one of our expert solicitors to discuss our rates.
At the Magistrates’ Court
Representation in the Magistrates’ Court is now subject to 2 tests:
- The ‘merits test’ considers the seriousness of your case and whether it is in the ‘interests of justice’ for you to be legally represented. This can include the nature of the offence, whether you have previous convictions and whether there is a risk of custody (prison); and
- The ‘means test’ considers your financial circumstances and those of your partner. You will need to provide details of your income and your outgoings. Allowances are made for any children you have, childcare fees, your rent or mortgage, council tax and so on.
If your case passes the ‘merits test’ above you will automatically qualify for legal aid if:
- You are under 18; or
- Your total adjusted income (i.e. yours + your partner’s income, less certain allowances) per year is £12,475 before tax or less; or
- You receive specific state benefits, including:
– Income Support
– Income-based Job Seeker’s Allowance (JSA)
– Universal Credit
– Guaranteed State Pension Credit
– Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA
If your adjusted income is less than £22,325 each year you may also be eligible. However, a full financial test will be carried out to take into account household outgoings.
If your adjusted income is above £22,325 each year then you will not be eligible for legal aid in the Magistrates’ Court.
In the event that you are not eligible for legal aid, you may want to take advantage of our competitive private rates. Contact us or call us on 020 7388 1658 to discuss privately funding your case. We can often offer fixed fees, giving you certainty about the costs involved.
If you are successful at trial and are found not guilty, you can apply for at least some of your costs to be paid from central funds.
At the Crown Court
Representation in the Crown Court is now also subject to the ‘merits’ and ‘means’ tests.
If your case is going to be heard in the Crown Court, then you automatically pass the ‘merits’ test.
In the Crown Court if you exceed the lower financial eligibility threshold then you can still receive legal aid. However, you will be asked to pay contributions towards this funding. The amount of these contributions will depend upon your disposable income. You will be required to provide evidence of your income to the Legal Aid Agency, who will decide what level of contribution you will make. If you are found not guilty, your contributions will be refunded to you.
If you have over £37,500 adjusted income, you will not be eligible for legal aid.
Alternatively, many clients feel that when facing one of the most serious challenges of their life, they would prefer to privately fund their case in order to ensure the highest possible level of service available. Contact us or call us on 020 7388 1658 to discuss your eligibility or private funding arrangements.
Court of Appeal
If you are appealing against your conviction or sentence from the Crown Court, your legal aid will cover the initial stages of the process. It covers the preparation of the grounds and advice on appeal. If you are given permission to appeal, your legal aid will be extended to cover your advocate’s appearance at Court.
Legal aid in extradition cases in the Magistrates Court is also subject to the ‘means’ test. If you have an extradition case, you automatically pass the ‘merits’ test. For an appeal to the High Court, there is no means or merits test. Everyone is eligible for legal aid, whatever your circumstances. You can read more about legal aid in extradition cases here.
If you need specialist advice in relation to any criminal investigation or prosecution, from the initial investigation through to court proceedings, please get in touch. Call John Howey on 020 7388 1658 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Let us help.
Please note that the information contained in this article was correct at the time of writing. There may have been updates to the law since the article was written, which may affect the information and advice given therein.