Getting independent legal advice is very important when you are involved in some way with criminal proceedings. The factsheets tell you when and in what circumstances you are entitled to be represented by a lawyer. This general factsheet tells you how to find a lawyer and how the costs of the lawyer will be met if you cannot afford to pay.
In Austria, only lawyers can defend you in court (with a few exceptions). The Austrian Federal Bar Association keeps an electronic register of lawyers, which you can access here.
If you learn that investigations leading to criminal proceedings are being conducted against you in Austria, you should choose a lawyer and arrange a meeting with him/her to discuss the matter. If possible this should be done before you are questioned for the first time.
When arrested, persons have the right to contact a lawyer before they are questioned. If you do not know a lawyer, you can contact the lawyers on standby duty. The police or the prosecuting authorities must allow you to contact this service.
If you appoint a lawyer for your defence you must generally pay for his/her services yourself. If there is no agreement on fees, the lawyer may ask to be paid a reasonable remuneration. The rates listed in the General Fee Criteria (AHK) may be taken as a basis for calculating the fee.
If paying for your defence puts the maintenance for yourself or for your family at risk, taking into account your income and assets, and if defence counsel is required, you must be assigned defence counsel free of charge. In such cases, you will also receive free copies of the criminal file. You can apply for assignment of a legal-aid defence counsel by using this form.
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