We would start by first assessing your eligibility for legal aid. The application for legal aid or a Representation Order is a two fold test. In the magistrates court you have to meet the interests of justice test as well as the financial criteria test.
If you are charged with an imprisonable offence and you are in receipt of state benefit for example, you are more than likely to be granted a Representation Order. Even if you are in paid employment, providing your income does not exceed the maximum limit as set by the Legal Service Commission and also taking account of your outgoings, you are also likely to benefit from legal aid at no cost to you.
Once you are granted legal aid or a Representation Order, you will not be required to make any financial contribution towards the legal costs of representation in the magistrates’ court.
Legal aid in the Crown court is also based on means testing. Whilst you may automatically qualify for a Representation Order once you have completed and lodged your legal aid application, you may have to pay a contribution towards the cost of your defence. This could be from your income or from your capital. The Court will require you to provide evidence of your income and assets.
You may have to pay towards the costs if you monthly disposable income is above a certain level. If this is the case, you will receive a Contribution Order from the Court and you will have to make payments as required under the Order. The first payment will be due within 28 days of your case being committed, sent or transferred for Trial.
At the end of the case, if you are found not guilty, any payments you have made will be refunded with interest. If you paid late or not at all and action was taken against you, the costs of this action will be deducted from your refund.
If you are found guilty, you may have to pay towards your defence costs from any capital assets you may have. This would only apply if:
You will be told at the end of your case if you have to make a payment from capital.