For Clients and Families

How to Obtain an Attorney

A person facing felony or certain misdemeanor criminal charges in federal court is entitled to the assistance of an attorney.  A defendant can hire a private attorney to represent him or her.  If the defendant does not have enough money to hire an attorney, the U.S. District Court will appoint a lawyer to represent the individual.

To determine whether an individual is entitled to court-appointed counsel, the court reviews a financial affidavit, which the individual must fill out completely and truthfully.  Whenever an individual has an initial appearance before a U.S. Magistrate Judge in federal court, the individual is given the opportunity to fill out a financial affidavit and request appointment of counsel.  The court can appoint a lawyer before the initial appearance if, for example, an individual learns he or she is the subject of a federal investigation or has received a subpoena to testify before the grand jury.  The court also appoints an attorney to represent individuals who have not yet appeared in court but are aware that federal charges are pending against them.

The court appoints our office to represent the majority of defendants in the District of Maryland who cannot afford to hire an attorney.  However, sometimes our office cannot represent an individual because a conflict of interest exists between that individual and one of our current or former clients.  For example, our office can only represent one of the defendants charged in a multi-defendant case because the interests of each defendant in the case differs from the interests of the other defendants.   If you qualify for appointed counsel but our office has a conflict that prevents us from representing you, the court will appoint a private attorney on the court’s Criminal Justice Act panel to represent you at no cost to you.

If you believe you qualify for appointment of an attorney to represent you in a federal criminal matter before the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland and you want to obtain counsel before your initial appearance, please fill out this financial affidavit and contact our office and ask to speak with the duty attorney in Baltimore (410-962-3962) or Greenbelt (301-344-0600).  If you know our office already represents someone involved in your case, please mail your affidavit to:

CJA Panel Coordinator
U.S. District Court
101 W. Lombard Street
Baltimore, MD 21201

If you are seeking a public defender for a state-court proceeding, please contact the Maryland Office of the Public Defender.