If you are facing legal proceedings for a criminal matter at any court, you will probably benefit from seeking legal representation.
Representation can be provided by private lawyers, but they may be costly.
An alternative is to seek a grant of legal aid. If successful, this means that the Legal Aid Commission can pay a private lawyer to represent you or they can give your case to a lawyer employed by Legal Aid.
Legal Aid lawyers represent clients in many courts throughout NSW, including regional cities like Albury Court.
Although Albury Court is a local court, which means it deals with less serious criminal cases, you can still face reasonably harsh penalties depending on the charges against you.
The right legal representation can make a significant difference to the outcome of your case, and may mean the difference between getting a criminal conviction with a lifelong criminal record, and being found not guilty. Legal fees can mount up and if you are eligible you can apply for Legal Aid to help you with the cost of hiring a lawyer or seeking legal advice.
Who is eligible for Legal Aid?
There are a number of criteria that determine whether or not you are eligible for Legal Aid. The main things that matter are how much you earn, and the potential penalty for the matter you are facing.
When you apply for Legal Aid your financial and personal circumstances will be taken into account. This is called a means test, and you will be asked for information about how much you earn as well as details of any benefits you receive from Centrelink or other organisations. Legal Aid will also want to know details about any assets you have, and how many dependants you are supporting.
The nature of the offence you are facing will also be taken into consideration. Offences that could potentially lead to a jail sentence are usually considered eligible for Legal Aid, as well as matters involving the family court or DOCS. There are a number of other offences that are eligible for Legal Aid and you can check to see whether or not your particular legal matter is listed.
How do I apply for Legal Aid?
Applying for Legal Aid at Albury Court or any other local court can be done online at the Legal Aid website. Before you apply for Legal Aid, you can get free legal advice about your matter and whether or not you are likely to be considered eligible.
Once you have filled out and submitted your application form for Legal Aid, your application should be processed and you should have an answer within two weeks. You can call the Grants Division of Legal Aid to check on the progress of your application at any time. If you are not happy with the final decision, you can apply for a review of the decision within 28 days of finding out the results.
What will I get if I am approved?
If your application for Legal Aid is approved, you will receive a grant to pay for all or part of your lawyer’s fees. The exact amount you receive will be determined by Legal Aid and you can check to see how much you have left at any time. It is important that you are aware how much your grant is, as once it has been finished, if your case is still ongoing you may be required to pay the remainder of your legal fees yourself.
When you are on Legal Aid, your lawyer is paid directly by Legal Aid so they won’t charge you while the grant is in place. You will probably be required to pay some costs at the beginning and end of your case.