Eligibility Requirements


Adults who are in custody automatically qualify for representation through our office. Adults who are in custody will be interviewed in the jail prior to their preliminary hearing.

Adults who are not incarcerated or otherwise detained must come in person to the Public Defender’s Office at least three business days prior to the court date to determine eligibility for representation.

To qualify for a public defender, an adult defendant must meet income requirements. Our office considers the US Federal Poverty Guidelines, household income, and the nature of the charges when determining whether an adult defendant qualifies for representation.

United States Federal Poverty Guidelines

Procedure for Obtaining a Public Defender

If you are without funds to retain an attorney, you may qualify for representation by the Public Defender’s Office of Allegheny County.

How do you get a Public Defender? See the Online Application Instructions page.

If you are in custody because of these charges, you will be interviewed in the jail prior to your preliminary hearing. Allegheny County OPD intake staff visits all new arrests at the Allegheny County Jail to determine if those individuals require our services.

Conflicts of Interest

A conflict of interest may exist in a situation where the Office of the Public Defender (OPD) represents a client in a matter and a co-defendant, victim or eyewitness requesting representation from this Office has an interest which is potentially adverse (or unfavorable) to the interest or defense of the existing client.

For example, a conflict exists if either an existing client or potential client is being identified as a victim or unfavorable witness to another person applying for representation. Conflicts may also exist if individuals are charged with conspiracy and both individuals seek representation from the OPD on those current conspiracy charges. In situations such as these, the OPD generally represents the person the OPD interviews first; the other person applying for OPD representation will be appointed a conflict attorney by the Court.

If you qualify for our services through the intake process, your case will automatically be transferred to a conflict attorney. Your conflict attorney will be present at your next court date. Always retain any paperwork you receive following your intake interview for proof that your case has been conflicted by the OPD.

If You Don't Qualify for Public Defender Services

Contact the Lawyer Referral Service of the Allegheny County Bar Association at 412-261-5555 if you do not qualify for Public Defender services because you exceed the income guidelines or because your case is not authorized by the Public Defender Act.

If you are financially able to hire your own attorney, you are encouraged to do so immediately. Our services are limited to people who cannot afford counsel on their own.

If you have additional questions, you may find answers and helpful resources from the Criminal Court.