What Can I Do If I Can’t Afford An Attorney?
In some case, you may be entitled to a free attorney but not all cases. In situations where you are not entitled to a free attorney, there may still be free or low-cost legal assistance available to you.
The Constitution of the United State states that a person who is charged with a crime that might lead to imprisonment is entitled to legal representation. If the individual can not afford to hire an attorney than a court-appointed attorney will be provided. This attorney is typically either a private attorney paid using county funds or a public defender.
In case other than criminal cases where there is a risk of imprisonment, you are not entitled to a free attorney under the Constitution. However, this doesn’t mean that there isn’t still free or low-cost legal assistance available. Some of the options available include finding a private attorney that takes some case pro bono, legal aid organization, or other non-profit organizations that provide legal assistance.
What is a Pro Bono Attorney?
A pro bono attorney is an attorney that agrees to provide you with legal assistance at no charge. Although all attorneys must do some pro bono work every year. This can be either taking a case for no fees or volunteering services to a qualified cause. Therefore, finding pro bono assistance can be a challenge as it is up to each attorney as to which case he/she will take pro bono. So there is no guaranteed that you will find a pro bono attorney.
You may be able to find a community-based program pro bono program that offers free legal assistance. These are typically small organizations with limited budgets. Typically to qualify you must be very low income (less than 125% of the poverty level) and your case must have merit and be likely to succeed. Often people are turned away due to the organization’s limited resources. South Texas College of Law Houston also offers a free family law clinic and is a good example of a community based pro bono program.
What is Legal Aid?
Legal aid offices are typically funded through governmental and private resources. They employ attorneys, paralegals, and other support staff to assist clients. Typically there is an income guideline for qualification of services. Again, because of the limited resources available as compared to the demand for these services most cases accepted by legal aid organization must have merit and be likely to be resolved. In the Houston, Texas area Lone Star Legal Aid provide legal aid to many low-income Texans.
What Other Assistance Is Available?
Many communities have other resources for legal assistance available. These services may range from providing free legal advice through a legal hotline to organizations providing a low-cost option for those that are self-representing. Texas Lawyer Referral Service provides many free services, related to family law, to the public as well as service to self-representing clients who otherwise would not have access to legal assistance, education, and guidance. Texas parents or guardians who have a legal situation involving a child may qualify for assistance from the Courtroom Assistance Program.
Another option is to contact a lawyer referral service that has attorneys that take clients of modest means. Attorneys accepting client of modest mean have agreed to reduce their fee to service these individuals. Texas Lawyer Referral Service does have a modest mean program is assist those looking to retain an attorney but you may not be able to pay the full cost of the attorney representation. Again the attorney has the right to accept or refuse each case at his/her discretion.
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