St. Clair County 31st Circuit Court
Court Appointed Attorneys
Persons arrested and arraigned on a criminal warrant are given the
opportunity to apply for court appointed counsel at their initial court appearance.
The Circuit and District Courts appoint qualified private attorneys to represent
individuals accused of crimes who cannot afford to hire their own lawyer if:
- The offense charged is punishable by more than 92 days in jail; or,
- The offense charged requires on conviction a minimum term in jail; or,
- The court determines that it might sentence the defendant to jail.
There are minimum requirements to qualify for court appointed
counsel. Defendants are notified by mail concerning the status of their application.
Once appointed, the assigned attorney will contact the defendant by phone and/or
mail prior to their next court date. Defendants may be required to reimburse court
appointed counsel costs at the conclusion of their case.
The Circuit Family Division will appoint a guardian ad litem in cases of juvenile
abuse or neglect. The guardian ad litem may be an attorney.
The Probate Court will appoint a lawyer in all cases involving a mentally ill or
developmentally disabled person. In all guardianship and conservatorship cases,
the court will appoint a guardian ad litem. A guardian ad litem is a person appointed
to protect the interests of an infant, an incompetent adult, or a missing person
who is involved in a court case.
Right to Assistance of Lawyer; Advice; Appointment for Indigents; Waiver; Joint Representation;
Grand Jury Proceedings
(A) Advice of Right. At the arraignment on the warrant or complaint,
the court must advise the defendant
- of entitlement to a lawyer's assistance at all subsequent court proceedings, and
- that the court will appoint a lawyer at public expense if the defendant wants one
and is financially unable to retain one.
The court must question the defendant to determine whether the defendant wants a
lawyer and, if so, whether the defendant is financially unable to retain one.
(B) Questioning Defendant About Indigency. If the defendant requests
a lawyer and claims financial inability to retain one, the court must determine
whether the defendant is indigent. The determination of indigency must be guided
by the following factors:
- present employment, earning capacity and living expenses;
- outstanding debts and liabilities, secured and unsecured;
- whether the defendant has qualified for and is receiving any form of public assistance;
- availability and convertibility, without undue financial hardship to the defendant
and the defendant's dependents, of any personal or real property owned; and
- any other circumstances that would impair the ability to pay a lawyer's fee as would
ordinarily be required to retain competent counsel.
The ability to post bond for pretrial release does not make the defendant ineligible
for appointment of a lawyer.
(B) Partial Indigency. If a defendant is able to pay part of the cost
of a lawyer, the court may require contribution to the cost of providing a lawyer
and may establish a plan for collecting the contribution.
(C) Appointment or Waiver of a Lawyer. If the court determines that
the defendant is financially unable to retain a lawyer, it must promptly appoint
a lawyer and promptly notify the lawyer of the appointment. The court may not permit
the defendant to make an initial waiver of the right to be represented by a lawyer
- advising the defendant of the charge, the maximum possible prison sentence for the
offense, any mandatory minimum sentence required by law, and the risk involved in
- offering the defendant the opportunity to consult with a retained lawyer or, if
the defendant is indigent, the opportunity to consult with an appointed lawyer.