Getting independent legal advice is very important when you are involved in some way with the criminal process. The factsheets tell you when and in what circumstances you are entitled to be represented by a lawyer. They also tell you what a lawyer will do for you. 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.
If you are a suspect or have been accused formally of a crime, you have the right to be represented by a professional defence counsel (in Poland an advocate) from the moment of the charges are made until the conclusion of the proceedings.
If you are not under temporary arrest, and you are the suspect or the accused, you may receive legal assistance in the following way: choose a lawyer yourself and appoint them to defend you throughout the proceedings. Your defence lawyer may access the files relating to the pre-trial proceedings.
In this case, generally a contract will be drawn up between you and the lawyer. The lawyer’s fees will be agreed between you and must be paid by you.
You may have maximum of 3 lawyers acting at the same time during the proceedings.
If you cannot afford to pay the costs of the lawyer without that affecting your ability to support yourself and your family, you can apply to the President of the court for a lawyer to be appointed for you.
You have to prove your financial circumstances in the motion by attaching relevant documents (e.g. certificate of earnings, certificate about your family and financial status, certificate from an Employment Office or Social Care Centre, tax return for previous years or a certificate of non-taxable income).
The motion should include:
The motion must be filed directly with the court deciding the case or sent to the court’s address by registered mail. If the case is still pending before the prosecutor, the motion should be filed via the appropriate prosecutor’s office.
If you are under temporary arrest, you can choose a lawyer in the same way as set out above.
However, you have the right to communicate with your defence counsel in private or by mail. In exceptional cases, within 14 days from the date of temporary arrest, the prosecutor may reserve the right to their presence or order that correspondence be reviewed.
During the proceedings, the defence counsel has the duty to take all the steps necessary for the proceedings, except where the activity has to be performed by you personally (e.g. making explanatory statements). Your lawyer must act only in your interests.
If you are under temporary arrest, your lawyer may have access to the files relating to the preparatory proceedings.
If you are acquitted, the costs of the defence lawyer appointed by the court are covered by the State but the costs of a lawyer chosen by you must be paid by you. If you are convicted, the court may order that you pay the costs of the proceedings.
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