Getting A Public Defender - In Criminal or Certain Civil Cases


How do I get a public defender?

In Criminal Cases

Public defenders are appointed by the court for defendants who cannot afford to hire private counsel. If you have not bonded out, the court will automatically appoint a public defender for you at your first court date, called your arraignment. If you have bonded out and wish to be represented by a public defender, you must fill out an application and present it to the judge at your next court date.

Applications can be picked up at the Public Defender's Office (or Court Clerk's Office if your county does not have a Public Defender's Office).

Download the form

In Civil Cases

Download the form

If I make bond can I still get a public defender?

If you are able to pay for a bond, the court will presume that you are financially able to hire a private attorney.

This presumption DOES NOT mean that you cannot get a public defender.

It means that you must demonstrate financial need to the judge before he or she will appoint a public defender for you.

How much money can I make and still qualify for the services of the Public Defender?

There is no fixed amount to decide if you can or cannot get a public defender.

The judge will look at your current financial situation, including income, savings, assets, financial obligations, debts, and bankruptcies.
If the judge then decides that you cannot afford to hire a private attorney, he or she will appoint a public defender to represent you.

Do I need a form to apply for a public defender or court appointed lawyer?


Open the pdf file at the bottom of this page.
This form is from the Oklahoma County Public Defender's Office that is used by almost every county.
Check with the Court Clerk or Public Defender's office in your county.


(You need Adobe Acrobat Reader to open this file.  If the computer you are using does not have Adobe Acrobat installed, you can get a free download at this link

Are public defenders real lawyers?


In criminal caes, public defenders are among the best, most experienced criminal defense lawyers in the state.

All public defenders have at least a Juris Doctor degree from an accredited law school and a license to practice law from the Oklahoma Bar Association.
All public defenders participate in continuing legal education seminars to stay current with developments in thel law.

Would I be better off hiring a private attorne

If you can afford to hire a private attorney, you should hire one.  Remember, if you can afford to hire a lawyer, you are not entitled to the services of the public defender.

If you cannot afford a private attorney, keep in mind that public defenders are outstanding attorneys.

Public defenders are extremely experienced.  A Public Defender usually handles more trials in a year than many attorneys try in a lifetime.

Public defenders are also highly specialized.  Most work only on certain types of caes, so public defenders are very familiar with the justice system. 
Court appointed lawyers are also actively practicing lawyers and usually very experienced in the type of cases in which they accept court appointments.


Are all court-appointed attorneys public defenders?


Some counties do not have a Public Defender's Office.  In those counties, judges appoint lawyers who regularly practice in their courts or are on a court-appointed list indicating they will accept a court apopinted case.  Those lawyers are paid from the court fund.


Sometimes it would be impossible for the Public Defender's Office to fairly represent an individual's witness against one of their clients.  Sometimes the judge appoints a publice defender for one parent, when both parents are charged with child abuse or neglect.  The Public Defenders Office would have a 'conflict of interest' if they represented both parents.

In those cases, a judge will appoint a private attorney, called a conflict attorney, instead of a public defender for the other parent or for the child.

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