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Obtaining a Public Defender

If you are charged with a crime in New Hampshire and the potential punishment for that crime includes jail or imprisonment, then you may be entitled to the appointment of a New Hampshire attorney to represent you.

You are only entitled to an appointed attorney if you are not able to afford to hire your own, private attorney. The Circuit Courts, the Superior Courts and the Supreme Court of the State of New Hampshire determine financial eligibility for the appointment of counsel in New Hampshire criminal cases in a written application process. The process involves submitting a written application in which you are required to provide detailed personal financial information. The application is submitted to the court through the Clerk of Court's office in the New Hampshire court where your criminal charges are pending. A judge then reviews the application and grants or denies the request for appointed counsel.

If you are facing New Hampshire criminal charges, you believe you are not able to hire a private attorney, and you wish to be represented by an attorney, you should submit an application for the appointment of counsel to the court where you are charged. You should expect the appointment of counsel within two or three days if you are found to be eligible.

Please note that, by law, the New Hampshire Public Defender is not able to determine your eligibility for an appointed attorney. You must apply to the court. The New Hampshire Public Defender may only represent you after having been appointed by a New Hampshire court which has determined that you are eligible for appointed counsel.

Please also note that the New Hampshire Public Defender does not represent criminal defendants in federal court. In matters pending before the U.S. District Court, you should seek the appointment of the Federal Defender which has offices in Concord. Find your Federal Defender office here.

If you want to make an application for an appointed attorney, or if you have any questions at all about whether you are eligible, go to the court where your charges are pending. Go the Clerk's Office for your court and ask to speak to someone who can help you apply for an appointed attorney in your criminal case. Find your NH court here.

If you are seeking reduced-fee assistance with a non-criminal matter (i.e. divorce, child custody, landlord tenant issues, etc.) the New Hampshire Public Defender does not offer services in these matters. To locate an agency that may be able to assist you, please visit the State Court’s website.
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