1 - Getting legal advice
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.
Finding a lawyer
If you are accused of a crime in a criminal trial, you have the right to be assisted by a lawyer throughout the criminal process. The judicial bodies must inform you of your right to be assisted by a lawyer, before taking the first statement. This will be recorded in the official investigation report.
In principle, legal advice is optional, in the sense that you may or may not choose the services of a lawyer for legal advice.
If you decide to choose a lawyer, but do not know which lawyer to hire, please contact the local Bar Association.
If you decide not to hire a lawyer, the criminal process can proceed even if you are not assisted by a lawyer. In such situations, you will be forced to defend yourself.
In some cases, legal representation is required by law. Legal representation is compulsory in criminal proceedings if the accused is:
- a juvenile, held in a correctional centre;
- hospitalized in a medical educational unit;
- in custody or arrested, including in connection with another case;
- in custody on the grounds of medical safety, or obliged to receive medical treatment in connection with another case;
- not capable of defending himself/herself, in the opinion of the investigation body or the court;
- in the trial phase for an offence punishable with life imprisonment or imprisonment for 5 years or more;
- in other cases stipulated by law.
Where legal representation is required and you did not choose a lawyer, the investigation body or the court must appoint a lawyer. The legal aid services of the local Bar Association of the court where your trial is or will be heard will appoint a lawyer. Afterwards, you may choose another lawyer at any time, in which case the assignment of the lawyer appointed by the court ends automatically.
Paying for a lawyer
If you have chosen a lawyer, you will pay the costs of the legal services provided by the lawyer, according to the fees set in the agreement concluded with the lawyer.
If a lawyer is appointed for you by the court, where legal assistance is required by law, the state will pay the fees of the lawyer.
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Last update: 15/02/2012