Do I need to get legal advice?
Being charged with a crime is very serious and sometimes may lead to you being sent to prison. That's why it's very important that you get legal advice from a solicitor so that you understand what is happening and get the best possible outcome for yourself.
A solicitor can help you by:
- explaining what you are charged with and what the possible outcomes are
- preparing your defence and gathering evidence for you
- representing you at court or getting a barrister to represent you if necessary.
How do I get legal advice?
If you are arrested, or interviewed under caution, you have the right to free advice and representation from a solicitor. (See more about your rights at the police station in our pages on police and mental health.)
To see a solicitor, you can either:
- ask to see the duty solicitor at the police station, or
- contact a different solicitor yourself. To do this you can contact the Law Society who can help you find solicitors in your area.
Different solicitors specialise in different areas of law:
- If you've been arrested or charged with a crime, you need a criminal solicitor.
- If you've been sent to hospital under the Mental Health Act and want to be discharged, you need a mental health solicitor.
If you are charged with a crime, you might get legal aid to help you pay for legal advice and representation.
Can I get legal aid?
Legal aid can help meet the costs of legal advice and representation in a court or tribunal. It is given to people who cannot otherwise afford it.
You can get legal aid once you have been charged if you pass two tests, the interests of justice test and the means test.
The interests of justice test
This test looks at:
- the seriousness of the offence
- the complexity of your case
- any disability you may have
- whether your mental health makes it more difficult to represent yourself.
Usually you’ll only pass this test if the offence you are charged with could lead to a prison sentence.
The means test
This test looks at whether you receive any benefits, or if you have a low income. You will automatically pass this test if you receive certain benefits, such as:
- Job-Seekers Allowance
- Universal Credit
- income-related Employment Support Allowance.
Otherwise the court will look at your income.