Who Can Get a Public Defender?
To be appointed a public defender, you must meet BOTH FINANCIAL ELIGIBILITY AND CASE ELIGIBILITY standards.

Financial Eligibility
To be appointed a public defender, you must be considered "indigent." The following circumstances meet Washington indigency standards pursuant to RCW 10.101:
  • You receive public assistance (temporary assistance for needy families, general assistance, poverty-relate veterans' benefits, food stamps or food stamp benefits transferred electronically, refugee resettlement benefits, Medicaid, or supplemental security income);
  • You are involuntarily committed to a public mental health facility; 
  • You receive an annual income, after taxes, of 125% or less of the current federally established poverty level (external); 
  • You are unable to pay the anticipated cost of counsel for the matter before the court because the available funds are insufficient to pay any amount for the retention of counsel.
  • When you are screened for indigency, make sure to follow instructions and to bring any documents requested by the screening authority.

Case Eligibility

Public defenders are only appointed to represent people facing criminal charges or certain civil charges where jail is a possibility or where you may lose your parental rights. You may apply for a public defender if you have been charged with:
  • A felony in Benton County Superior or District Court
  • A misdemeanor in Benton County District Court prosecuted by the State or any of the municipalities in Benton County (Kennewick, Prosser, Richland, West Richland)
  • A juvenile offense in Benton County Superior Court or a Becca case in Benton County Superior Court
You may also apply for a public defender if:
  • DSHS/CPS has taken away your children in a dependency action in Benton County Superior Court (these attorneys are managed by Washington State OPD)
  • You are filing a misdemeanor appeal in Benton County Superior Court
  • You are facing proceedings seeking to have you involuntarily committed to a mental health facility
  • You are facing the prospect of jail time in your child support case
You will not be appointed a public defender for other types of cases including:
  • Civil lawsuits
  • Divorce cases
  • Traffic infractions
  • Other civil matters or non-criminal charges

    Benton County    620 Market Street    Prosser, Washington 99350
    Phone: (509) 786-5710 or (509) 783-1310
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