Legal advice from Gary Heaven, a partner in criminal law at FDR Law, Palmyra Square, Warrington
Who qualifies for legal aid?
Q: I have been charged with a criminal offence and told I must attend a hearing at our local Magistrates Court. I want a solicitor to plead my case but am I entitled to legal aid?
A: Although legal aid has recently been withdrawn for many things, it is still widely available to help people who find themselves arrested and held at a police station or charged with a criminal offence.
Free legal representation and advice is always available to people detained at a police station. If this happens to you, it is vital that you see a qualified lawyer who can give you expert advice even if you intend to accept a caution. There is no charge for this service.
In your case, for people brought before magistrates court charged with a criminal offence, legal aid is often available. You should always check if you are entitled to free representation.
Legal aid is means tested and depends on the seriousness of the charge. A non-custodial offence, like drunk and disorderly, would not pass this test but drink driving, which carries the threat of imprisonment, would qualify. Eligibility also depends on how much you earn or whether you have significant savings.
Given what is at stake, I would always recommend people charged with a criminal offence seek professional help. It costs nothing to ask if you qualify.
FDR Law is one of the largest criminal legal aid providers in Cheshire and the largest of only three firms in Warrington actively undertaking criminal legal aid work. Not to ask for help could cost you your reputation or your liberty.