Defendants (criminal proceedings)


Getting independent legal advice is very important when you are involved in some way with the criminal process. The factsheets tell you when and in what circumstances you are entitled to be represented by a lawyer. They also tell you what a lawyer will do for you. This general factsheet tells you how to find a lawyer and how the costs of the lawyer will be met if you cannot afford to pay.

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Finding a lawyer

If you have been charged with a crime, you are entitled to a counsel throughout the criminal procedure. A counsel can also be hired for you by your family. If you need a lawyer, you can find one at the website of the Bar Association of Slovenia.

I. Obligatory defence

In certain cases, defence through a counsel is obligatory, regardless of your preferences. If you do not find your own counsel, the court will appoint one for you on its own motion.

  • Court-appointed counsel

The court will appoint a counsel for you, on its own motion, at the first hearing in the following circumstances:

  • if you are mute, deaf or incapable of defending yourself;
  • if you are charged with a crime punishable by imprisonment of 30 years;
  • if, after being detained by the police, you are brought before an investigating judge for questioning.

You must have a court-appointed counsel during the process of making a decision on whether you should be held in detention and, throughout the time you are detained.

A counsel will also be appointed by the court when you are served with a charge sheet accusing you of a criminal offence which is punishable with a jail sentence of eight years or more.

The term of a court-appointed counsel usually ends when the judgment becomes final. The court appoints a counsel from its list of eligible lawyers. The fees of a court-appointed counsel are paid for by the court from the public budget allocated to it. If you are convicted, you will have to repay the costs of the counsel to the court. However, the court can exempt you from paying these costs if this would mean that you don’t have enough money to live on.

The court can suspend a counsel appointed by it on your request only if the counsel fails to perform his/her duties properly. In this case, you will be assigned another counsel. You are entitled to find your own defence counsel at any time, in which case the court-appointed counsel will be discharged.

II. Optional defence

  • Counsel through free legal assistance

If you have no income or other assets, you can lodge a special application for free legal assistance. This application should be addressed to the district court of your place of residence. If you meet the necessary conditions, the court will, by way of a decision, grant you free legal assistance. The court will select a lawyer for you from a special list of lawyers. This lawyer will defend you in the criminal procedure. Eventually, the lawyer's fees will be paid by the state from the budget. You do not need to repay this money to the state, even if you are ultimately convicted.

  • Counsel in the interest of fairness

Upon your request, the court can assign you a counsel when you are served with the charge sheet even if the conditions for an obligatory defence are not met. It can do so if you are unable to pay a lawyer due to your financial situation and if this is in the interest of fairness. If you have been deprived of liberty, a counsel can also be assigned by the police in the interest of fairness.

The same rules regarding cost recovery as with a court-appointed counsel apply.

Related links

Bar Association of Slovenia

List of lawyers

Application for free legal assistance

Last update: 16/02/2012

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