Getting arrested for DUI does not mean you will be convicted. Police misconduct, defective breathalyzers and crime lab mistakes may be enough to get your charges lessened or dismissed. Visit our page on Nevada DUI Laws to learn more.
Courts look at the totality of your circumstances to decide whether you are indigent and therefore eligible for a public defender. There is no maximum wage or salary that automatically disqualifies you for a public defender.
During your arraignment (which is when you are formally charged in open court), the judge will ask if you can afford your own attorney (“private counsel”). If you answer no, the clerk will give you a formand affidavit to fill out with your:
Based on your specific financial situation, the court will then determine whether you are indigent.2
Are public defenders really free in Las Vegas?
If you accrue enough money within six years of your criminal case, the court can order you to reimburse your court-appointed attorney. You can usually pay these legal fees in installments rather than through a lump-sum.
If making these payments would cause you a “manifest hardship,” you can petition the judge to reduce or waive them. You can also ask the judge to let you perform community service rather than make payments.3
Are public defenders as good as private attorneys?
Like private criminal defense attorneys, public defenders have graduated from law school, have passed the bar, and are eligible to represent anyone charged with a crime.
However, public defenders are overworked and understaffed. They simply lack the time to give their all to each of their hundreds of clients, and they are incentivized to close out cases as soon as possible.
In contrast, private counsel have fewer clients and can therefore devote much more time and resources to each one. Therefore, the odds of you getting a significant charge reduction or dismissal are much higher.
If at all possible, you are advised to hire a private criminal defense attorney to represent you. The upfront costs are worth the long-term benefits.
Can I choose my public defender?
No. If you cannot afford your own attorney, the court will appoint you an attorney of their choosing.
These attorneys usually come from the Clark County Public Defender’s Office, or else they are private counsel contracted through Clark County or the City of Las Vegas.
In practice, defendants get better case results with private counsel than with public defenders.
For more information, refer to the following:
Clark County Public Defender – Court-appointed attorneys assigned to indigent defendants in Clark County, Nevada (which includes Las Vegas).
Federal Public Defender – Court-appointed attorneys assigned to indigent defendants facing charges in federal court, the district of Nevada.
A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.