Healthy New Jersey

Office of the Public Defender

Apply for a Public Defender

Every defendant charged with an indictable (felony) offense in New Jersey is entitled to be represented by an attorney, whether or not he or she can afford one.  For anyone who feels that he or she cannot afford an attorney, the court has a process to determine whether a public defender can be appointed to represent him or her.  Contrary to popular belief, the New Jersey Office of the Public Defender (NJOPD) does not decide which applicants will be accepted for representation.  That decision is made by the courts, based on the information provided by applicants.

The court will provide a Uniform Defendant Intake, or "5A Form," which is the application for representation by a public defender.  This form asks for information about a defendant's residence, criminal history, employment history and financial status.  It seeks to weigh the defendant's income and assets against his or her expenses and debts to determine if the defendant meets the indigency standards to qualify for a public defender.  The defendant will also be asked if he or she requires an interpreter and, if so, for what language.

Once the court has decided that a defendant qualifies for a public defender, the case is referred to the NJOPD regional office in the county in which the case is to be heard. For a list of those regional offices, click here, The Deputy Public Defender in charge of that regional office will then assign an attorney to handle the case.

The NJOPD is committed to providing the highest quality of legal representation to all clients assigned to the agency by the courts. This representation will be given regardless of an individual's present ability to pay for representation. 

Individuals may also seek representation in the following case types:

  • Family Court Juvenile Delinquency cases (parents are financially responsible)
  • Recovery Court cases
  • Intensive Supervision Program cases
  • Special Hearing Unit cases
  • Family Court Title 9 Child Abuse and Neglect cases
  • Family Court Title 30 Termination of Parental Rights cases

Individuals may also seek representation in the following case types:

  • Children who are the subject of Title 9 and Title 30 litigation
  • Individuals seeking to appeal trial results 

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