Legal Fees

Applying for Legal Aid in Criminal Law Matters

By January 9, 2020 No Comments
Apply for Legal Aid

Hans Legal is a preferred Legal Aid supplier in Ipswich and is committed to making the application process as stress-free as possible for individuals charged with criminal offences. This article sets out the requirements and process to apply for Legal Aid funding.

Feel free to contact us to discuss your matter and eligibility for Legal Aid. We can walk you through the process and lodge your application on your behalf. While we are a preferred supplier in the Ipswich region, we can lodge applications for matters anywhere in Queensland.

STEP 1 – AM I ELIGIBLE FOR LEGAL AID?

There are certain tests and guidelines which you must meet in order to be eligible for Legal Aid.

First stage – consideration of your financial circumstances

The first step is to determine whether you are financially eligible. This is called the ‘means test’. This test requires consideration of your income and assets. Income includes the following:

  • your salary;
  • money received from investments (for example, shares or rent);
  • income received from insurance policies (for example accident, sickness or disability benefits).

Generally, if you are receiving a Centrelink benefit as your sole source of income, you will meet the means test. Your assets will however also be assessed. Assets include real estate (for example equity in a home you own), savings in the bank, household furniture and motor vehicles. For details on what assets Legal Aid don’t take into account when assessing your application see the brochure titled ‘Can I get Legal Aid?’ which can be found by visiting Legal Aid Queensland’s website. You have an obligation to disclose all relevant details about your financial circumstances to Legal Aid.

Second stage – consideration of the Legal Aid guidelines

Finally, to be granted Legal Aid your criminal charges must meet the relevant Legal Aid guidelines before funding will be approved. There are different guidelines that apply depending on the type of criminal charge (for example whether the charge is one that can be dealt with in the Magistrates Court or whether it must proceed to a higher court).

For charges in the Magistrates Court, the guidelines are usually met if:

  • You are a child under the age of 17 years or were a child at the time of committing the offence;
  • You are likely to be sentenced to a period of actual custody if convicted;
  • You are charged with an indictable offence and you are at risk of receiving a term of actual imprisonment;
  • A criminal conviction would have a detrimental effect on your livelihood or employment;
  • There is no duty lawyer available to assist you (this usually applies if you are charged with multiple offences);
  • You have a disability (for example a mental illness, impairment or physical injury) which makes it difficult for you to give instructions to a lawyer;
  • You have difficult speaking or understanding the English language and require an interpreter;
  • You have significant difficulty reading or writing and your matter involves significant material to read.

For charges that must proceed to the District or Supreme Court, the guideline is usually met if:

  • You are charged with an offence which carries a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment or more;
  • You are charged with an offence which carries a maximum penalty of less than 14 years imprisonment and it is likely you will be discharged; additional disclosure may result in the charge not proceeding to a higher court; the matter is likely to result in an early plea or if you have a disadvantage or a disability.

However, any matters which must proceed to the District or Supreme Courts in Ipswich or Brisbane will automatically meet the guidelines.

You should contact Legal Aid Queensland or a preferred supplier law firm if you are unsure whether your charges will meet the relevant guidelines and merits test.

STEP 2 – WHAT DOCUMENTS WILL I NEED TO APPLY FOR LEGAL AID?

If you are applying for Legal Aid you must first complete all relevant sections on the Legal Aid Application Form. A copy of this form can be accessed here. Alternatively, you can get in touch with a law firm who are preferred Legal Aid suppliers like Hans Legal who will be able to help you complete a form.

Once the application form is complete you must then obtain the following:

  • Centrelink Income Statement – If you or a person who supports you financially receive a Centrelink benefit
  • Payslips – if you or a person who supports you financially is employed payslips for at least the last four weeks or a letter from your employer confirming your income;
  • Bank Statements – your bank statements from the past three months from all financial institutions where you or a person who supports you financially have accounts;
  • Details of your charge and prior history – copy of your Queensland Police Service Court Brief (otherwise known as QP9) and your traffic and criminal history (if you don’t have these, a law firm can help obtain them from Police Prosecutions).

If you are unsure about what material must be provided with your application it is recommend that you contact a preferred supplier firm or one of Legal Aid Queensland’s offices.

STEP 3 – WHERE DO I SUBMIT MY APPLICATION?

You can lodge your application and supporting documentation to:

  • To any criminal law firm who are preferred suppliers of Legal Aid;
  • A Legal Aid Queensland office;
  • By mail directly to Legal Aid – GPO Box 2449, Brisbane Qld 4001
  • By email directly to Legal Aid – [email protected]

Contact us today to find out if you can obtain Legal Aid funding through our firm.