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The Public Defender's Office

If you are an adult or juvenile charged with a criminal offense and cannot afford an attorney to represent you, the Public Defender's Office is available to provide representation free of charge. In criminal matters, you have a constitutional right to representation by counsel which cannot be limited by the fact that you cannot afford to hire your own private attorney. If you are an adult or a juvenile and cannot afford an attorney, you should go to the Public Defender's Office. Bring with you any papers you have that pertain to your charge(s) such as a criminal complaint or arrest warrant.

Your eligibility for Public Defender services is based upon the Federal Poverty Guidelines. When you apply, you must also bring with you the last two months of paystubs, any disability determination, and unemployment determination or Social Security determination. If you are eligible for a Public Defender, you will be assigned an attorney free of charge. If you are in jail, the Public Defender's investigators go to the Erie County Prison each day and takes applications from persons who are incarcerated. If a juvenile receives allegations of delinquency, he or she will be assigned a Public Defender by the Juvenile Probation Office after the intake hearing.

The Public Defender's Office does not provide representation in cases involving only summary offenses or cases involving traffic offenses. The exception is in situations where the Magisterial District Judge indicates that a penalty of incarceration is likely if a conviction results. As of the posting of this E-Law message, the Erie County Public Defender's Office provides representation to eligible individuals in the following areas:

  • When an adult is charged with a criminal act occurring in Erie County;
  • When a juvenile is charged with a delinquent act occurring in Erie County;
  • Preliminary hearings in Erie County;
  • Habeas Corpus proceedings in Erie County;
  • Pre-trial and Post-trial Motions, Pleas, Trials and Sentencings in the Criminal Division of the Erie County Court of Common Pleas;
  • Pennsylvania Superior and/or Pennsylvania Supreme Court appeals;
  • Criminal Extradition Hearings occurring in Erie County;
  • Probation and Parole Violation Hearings occurring in Erie County;
  • Court appointed for Post-Conviction Relief Act Petitions when appointed by the Court;
  • Involuntary commitment of Erie County residents under the Mental Health Procedures Act;
  • Contempt of an Erie County PFA or Support Order; or
  • Any proceeding occurring in Erie County where personal liberty is in jeopardy.

The attorneys employed by the Public Defender's Office are licensed to practice law in Pennsylvania and are knowledgeable in criminal law and in related fields. The Public Defender's Office is independent of the District Attorney's Office and of the Courts and, while publicly funded, represents the interests of its clients with the same legal and ethical standards that govern the legal profession generally. Your relationship with the Public Defender's Office and any of its attorneys should be the same as your relationship with any other attorney. The only difference is that if you qualify you will not owe any legal fees.

The Public Defender's Office is located at 210 East 2nd Street in Erie. Office hours are Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and applications are accepted until 4:00 p.m. You can telephone the Public Defender's Office at 814-451-6322. 8/21

If you need to consult with an attorney please contact the Erie County Bar Association's Lawyer Referral Service.