Getting independent legal advice is very important when you are involved in some way with the criminal process. The fact sheets 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 fact sheet 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 in custody, and need a lawyer, the Gardaí will have a list of solicitors who will be prepared to come and see you urgently to advise you. Their list will consist of people who are known to be available to visit Garda Stations on a 24 hour basis.
If you are not in custody, but require advice from a criminal lawyer you can contact the Law Society of Ireland, who will provide you with the names of solicitors who do criminal defence work. They are not permitted to recommend any one firm.
A better way to find a lawyer specialising in this work is by word of mouth, if you know people who have been in a similar situation before. Alternatively you could try the internet, as many law firms now have websites setting out the kind of work that they do best.
In Ireland, there is a system of legal aid which can provide the services of a lawyer to a person suspected or accused of an offence, at no cost to the person, in certain circumstances.
If you are detained at the Garda Station for questioning about an offence, and are not working or earn a low wage you will probably be entitled to the services of a solicitor free of charge, under the Garda Station Legal Advice Scheme. You have to sign a form for your solicitor, which includes a declaration that you earn under the permitted limit €20,316.00 or are in receipt of social welfare payments. There is no other paperwork.
If you have been charged with an offence, then you are entitled to apply to the judge, at the court where you appear, for legal aid. This is called a Certificate for Free Legal Aid. Your solicitor will help you apply to the court. If you don’t have a solicitor, the judge will often offer you legal aid and choose a solicitor for you. If the charge is a serious offence, and you are not working, you will probably be granted legal aid. If you are working, you may have to fill out a form, declaring your income and outgoings.
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