Criminal legal aid
Your legal aid lawyer
Can I choose the criminal lawyer who’ll represent me?
Usually applicants can’t choose the lawyer they want to represent them.
Defendants facing lesser criminal charges (where the maximum prison term is between six months and 10 years) will be assigned a legal aid lawyer. There are exceptions, such as when they already have a criminal legal aid lawyer working for them on a separate charge or if they are subject to a mental health order. Also, if a person spoke to a lawyer under the Police Detention Legal Assistance (PDLA) scheme, the lawyer they spoke to will be assigned to their case.
Applicants may be assigned a private criminal lawyer, or a Public Defence Service lawyer (a criminal lawyer employed by the government). Applicants have the right to the same level of service, regardless of who their assigned lawyer is.
Defendants facing serious charges (carrying a maximum sentence of more than 10 years prison) can choose their own lawyer. That lawyer must be approved to do criminal legal aid work and must be able to be at court when necessary.
An applicant can check whether their preferred lawyer is approved to do criminal legal aid work by visiting the Ministry of Justice website ( www.justice.govt.nz /courts/going-to-court/ legal-aid /legal-help/).
What can I do if I’m unhappy with my criminal legal aid lawyer?
If the applicant is unhappy with the lawyer they have been assigned, they should first discuss their concerns with the lawyer. If the problem isn’t resolved, the applicant should contact the Legal Services Commissioner. In rare situations, where there is a good reason for doing so, the commissioner can agree to assign a new lawyer.