Please read the following instructions carefully.

1. Get the intake form you need to ask a judge to appoint a Public Defender:


Download Intake Form (English) Download Intake Form (Somali)Download Intake Form (Spanish) Download Intake Form (Hmong)


Trial Level:

2. Do not send or give the intake form to the Public Defender.  You must provide the completed form to a judge to ask for Public Defender appointment.  The judge will appoint a Public Defender to represent you only if:

  • you are under age 18, or
  • if you are an adult and the judge decides that you cannot afford to hire a private attorney.

Ordinarily, Public Defenders are appointed when a person appearing in criminal court cannot afford to hire an attorney. You can ask for a Public Defender at any time, but it is best to ask for a Public Defender as soon as you first appear in court.  Once the judge agrees to appoint the Public Defender to represent you, the local Chief Public Defender decides which Assistant Public Defender will handle your case. You are unable to choose which Assistant Public Defender handles your case. In some locations, there is a financial inquiry that occurs before the first court hearing;. In other locations, the inquiry occurs in court. Minnesota law sets out the types of court hearings in which a person has a right to appointment of a public defender in court.

To learn more about the public defender appointment process in the district where you are facing charges, contact the District Court Administrator or Public Defender's office serving the county where you need help.

If, before going to court, an indigent accused person faces interrogation or other police procedures that may affect their rights, a public defender can represent the accused (see M.S.Sec. 611.262). Contact the Public Defender's office serving the county where you need help.

There are some kinds of court cases where public defenders never represent people. Just a few examples are: divorces, landlord-tenant matters, employment discrimination disputes, personal injury lawsuits and disputes over contracts.

Appeals of criminal convictions:

If you seek to appeal a conviction in criminal court and cannot afford a lawyer, you may be eligible to be represented by a public defender.  To learn more click here.

Alternatives to a public defender:    

There are four Public Defense Corporations (PDCs) that provide representation in certain circumstances and locations. To learn more about PDCs and to learn whether you are eligible for PDC representation, click here.