If you need legal representation, one of the biggest hurdles you encounter is how to pay for experienced attorneys who can help you navigate your case’s complexities. Yet, in many situations, it may be possible for you to qualify for free legal aid. While you may think free services from attorneys will mean they will do little if anything to help you, that is not the case at all. In fact, many attorneys in all areas of law regularly contribute time to legal aid societies or choose to offer their services pro bono, meaning for free. As to whether or not you may qualify for free legal aid, here are some instances where free legal help will be available.
Accused of Committing a Crime
If the police have accused you of committing a crime, you are always eligible for free legal aid from an attorney appointed by the court or through the public defender’s office. Remember that when officers read your Miranda rights, they always state you have a right to an attorney and that if you cannot afford one, an attorney will be appointed to you.
Defined as Poor by Court
If you have documentation to show the court that you cannot afford legal representation from experienced attorneys, in that case, a judge may then decide you qualify for free legal aid by what is known as indigent representation. When this occurs, you will be assigned an attorney for free. However, you may be required by the court to reimburse it, at least partially for any legal services provided to you.
Domestic Violence Victim
If you have been the victim of domestic violence or are in a similar situation where you fear for your personal safety, you will likely qualify for free legal help through local and national domestic violence prevention organizations. If you have decided to seek help from a domestic violence shelter, they can contact local attorneys who will work with you to file restraining orders, gather evidence of the abuse you sustained, and other important factors.
Household Income Below Poverty Level
Should your household income be less than 125 percent of the official poverty level recognized by the federal government, you can usually qualify for free legal help at local legal aid societies or experienced attorneys who will work pro bono.
If you served your country in the armed forces and are now disabled, free legal help is usually available. This applies to U.S. veterans who are either mentally or physically disabled, and the legal advice can involve such matters as rent assistance, child visitation agreements, and much more. To determine your eligibility, it is recommended you check with your local veteran’s association or the Veteran’s Administration.
Immigrants and Non-Citizens
If you are an immigrant to the U.S. or happen to be a non-citizen in the country, you may be eligible for free legal advice from numerous agencies. This is an especially important area for individuals in this category, since you may find yourself needing legal help with visa applications, work authorizations, green cards, or even in situations where the federal government is trying to have you deported. By contacting a local legal aid clinic, you can usually work with experienced attorneys who will do all they can to help you with your case.
Civil Rights Issues
If there is one area where it is often much easier to find attorneys who will provide you with free legal aid, it is when your situation involves a potential civil rights issue. Whether this involves a workplace discrimination lawsuit due to your gender or race, a police brutality situation, or other instances where your civil rights were abused or ignored, legal aid societies are often very eager to tackle these complex cases.
If you are part of a non-profit organization involved in a matter requiring the help of lawyers, free legal aid is often made available to such organizations. Since legal aid societies exist to help those who are disadvantaged or live in communities that are under-served regarding legal services, they are usually interested in helping in such matters as housing and homelessness, substance abuse, racial discord within communities, neighborhood crime, and much more.
Still, a serious issue in today’s society, those living with HIV/AIDS and have low incomes can usually qualify for free legal aid through various organizations. Whether you or a family member who has HIV/AIDS, a legal aid society, or private pro bono attorney can assist in such matters as employment or housing discrimination, questions and disputes involving insurance companies, family law situations, estate planning, and other similar matters.
Public Aid Recipients
If you are already receiving public aid in the form of SNAP, Social Security disability, or other state or federal aid programs, you can usually qualify for free legal assistance. To find out, you should often begin by contacting your caseworker or the agency providing your aid. In many cases, public aid recipients find they are eligible for free legal services on a continual basis, most of which are provided by their state.
If you are 65 or older and meet certain income qualifications, you may be eligible for free legal services. By contacting your local Agency on Aging or AARP, if you happen to be a member, these organizations can put you in touch with various local resources that may be able to give you the free legal help you need.
No matter what type of legal situation you may be facing, it can feel overwhelming, and as if you have no hope of victory. However, despite what many people think, those professionals who provide free legal services work just as hard, if not harder, to win their cases. If you are in need of free legal help, don’t give up until you obtain the help you need to resolve your situation.