It is possible to obtain legal aid funding for criminal cases in both the Magistrates Court and the Crown Court. The granting of legal aid is not automatic, so you must apply for funding. For criminal defence cases it is a two stage test and both elements must be passed to qualify:

  1. Interest of Justice test
  2. Means test

1. Interest of Justice Test

This is a merit-based test which looks at a number of things but the following in particular:

  • Nature of the offence
  • Risk of a custodial sentence
  • Previous convictions

If the first stage is not passed then you will be refused legal aid.

If you pass the first stage, the second stage will then be considered.

2. Means Test

The following will automatically qualify you for legal aid under the second stage of the test:

  • Under 18 years of age
  • Income Support benefit
  • Income related ESA benefit
  • Income based JSA benefit
  • Guarantee State Pension credit
  • Universal Credit

Magistrates Court

If you do not fit into one of the above categories and you (if single) or together with a partner, receive in a year from all sources before tax or other deductions £12,475, then you will also be entitled to legal aid under the means assessment.

If you earn more than £12,475 but less than £22,325 (total household income) you may still be eligible dependant on your disposable income once the following factors have been considered:

  • Board / lodgings
  • Rent / mortgage
  • Amount of dependent children
  • Childcare / maintenance payments

Crown Court

If you case proceeds to the Crown court, you then may be entitled to legal aid but on a contribution basis meaning that you may be asked to pay a monthly contribution towards your legal costs.

The amount you will be expected to pay is determinate on income and you will receive a contribution notice advising you of the liability.

The financial threshold for legal aid in the Crown Court should you not be automatically entitled is between the lower limit of £12,475 and £37,500.

If your yearly income is between these figures then the same financial factors for legal aid in the Magistrates Court will be considered.

Should you not be entitled to legal aid then you will need to pay privately for your legal costs should you wish to be represented.

We can advise you more specifically about your individual eligibility for legal aid and can also provide you with an estimate of what our costs might be should you not be eligible for legal aid or not wish to apply for it. Contact Lawtons on 0333 2020972 to discuss your options.

Nb. This guide is intended to give general information only and not intended to be used as the basis upon which Advice is given nor should it be relied upon as giving advice specific to a case or individual and Lawtons do not accept liability for anyone using this guide. Should you require specific advice in connection with a real case or situation, please contact us immediately so that we can provide specific Advice