Can I get criminal legal aid?

Legal aid may be available if:

  • you are charged with an offence that could be punished with a prison term of 6 months or more
  • you are appealing your conviction or sentence for 1 of these offences
  • you are appearing before the parole board (in some cases).

Legal aid is less likely to be available for minor charges as a duty lawyer can help you with these matters. However, legal aid may be available for these cases if you face a special barrier of disability, such as difficulties with reading or writing, or mental illness.

Get assistance from a duty lawyer for minor charges

Work out if you might be eligible for criminal legal aid

Whether you can get criminal legal aid depends on your income, assets and the charges you’re facing or the type of case you’re involved in.

In general, legal aid may be granted if:

  • you can’t afford your own lawyer and
  • either you’re charged with a criminal offence and could face a prison term of 6 months or more or the interests of justice require that you be granted legal aid.

Apply for criminal legal aid

Eligibility requirements in the Legal Services Act 2011(external link) 

Assessing your income and assets

To determine whether you can afford a lawyer, Legal Aid Services will consider:

  • how much you earn before tax
  • the value of your assets, such as how much property you own and any vehicles
  • how many financially dependent children you have.

If you have a partner, their finances will be taken into account.

Information in other languages

Legal aid for criminal offences - Māori [PDF, 515 KB]

Legal aid for criminal offences - Chinese [PDF, 607 KB]

Legal aid for criminal offences - Samoan [PDF, 513 KB]

Legal aid for criminal offences - Tongan [PDF, 515 KB]

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