If you are taken to a police station and interviewed under caution or arrested, you are entitled to free legal advice regardless of your financial situation.
Legal aid at court
To apply for legal aid at court, you will automatically qualify if you:
- are under 18
- receive specific state benefits, which are:
- income support
- income-based job seeker’s allowance
- guaranteed state pension credit
- income-related employment and support allowance
- Universal Credit
If these do not apply to you, you may apply for legal aid at court but your case will be subject to the ‘interests of justice’ test, which considers the merits of your case, and you will be subject to a means test to determine your financial position.
Interests of Justice
The interests of justice test looks at how serious your case is: if you have been charged with a indictable only offence (one that will be heard in the Crown Court) your case will pass the test. However, if you have been charged with a non-imprisonable offence, your case will not pass.
The means test will look at how much income you receive and how much capital (such as savings or a house) you own. If your annual income is less than £12,475, you will be able to receive criminal legal aid.
Your income will be calculated by taking into account income from:
- relatives and friends
- student loans
- interest from savings
- maintenance received from former partners
If you claim other benefits not included in the automatic access to legal aid listed above then they must be declared to. These include:
- child benefit
- tax credits
- incapacity benefit
- industrial injuries benefit
- disablement benefit
- savings pension credit
- contribution based jobseekers allowance
This table shows how much income your household must receive to be eligible for criminal legal aid:
|Adjusted income||Magistrates’ court||Commital for sentence||Appeal to the Crown Court||Crown court trial|
|£12,475 or less||funded||funded||funded||funded, no income contribution|
|More than £12,475, less than £22,325||depends on full means test||depends on full means test||possible fee, depends on full means test and outcome of appeal||possible income contribution, depends on full means test|
|£22,325 or more||not funded||not funded||depends on full means test and outcome of appeal||possibly not funded* or possible income contribution, depends on full means test|
Whether you have children or not also plays a part in the means testing.
You can find more information on applying for legal aid in criminal cases here.