Obtaining a Public Defender

If you have been charged with a crime and cannot afford an attorney, you may be eligible for a public defender.

How Do I Get a Public Defender?

The City of Seattle contracts with King County Public Defense for public defender services.

Eligibility Screening

By Phone: (206) 386-1543 or (206) 733-9753

In Person: 600 5th Avenue, 2nd Floor, Court Resource Center
Monday - Friday, 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

Eligibility for a pubic defender is determined through a financial interview. You must qualify as indigent under Washington State law, RCW 10.101.
A person who is indigent:

  • Receives public assistance (temporary assistance for needy families; aged, blind or disabled assistance benefits; medical care services under RCW 74.09.035; pregnant women assistance benefits, poverty-related veterans' benefits, food stamps or food stamp benefits transferred electronically, refugee resettlement benefits, Medicaid, or supplemental security income); or
  • Is involuntarily committed to a public mental health facility; or
  • Receives an annual income, after taxes, of 125 percent or less of the current federally established poverty level; or
  • Is unable to pay the anticipated cost of an attorney for the matter before the court because the available funds are insufficient to pay any amount to hire an attorney. 

If you are found to be indigent, your case will be assigned to a public defense division of King County Public Defense and an attorney from that division will contact you.

If you are found able to contribute, it means you have not qualified as indigent, however, you do not have enough money to hire a private attorney. You will be assigned to a public defense division, but you will be asked to sign a promissory note. The note means that you will make payments to help pay for your attorney.

If you do not qualify for a public defender, you will need to hire an attorney on your own. Please visit the King County Public Defense Resources page for more information on other legal resources.

How to Make a Complaint Against a Public Defender

If you have concerns with the public defender assigned to you, contact King County Public Defense and ask for the Misdemeanor Practice Director. If your concerns have not been addressed, please call the Seattle Municipal Court at (206) 733-9753.