I’m an adult. Can I be denied a public defender because I live with my parents and the make too much money?

UPDATED: Oct 2, 2022

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I’m an adult. Can I be denied a public defender because I live with my parents and the make too much money?

I am married with a baby and living at home. My husband and I are separated and
he doesn’t live here. I was denied a public defender because of my parent’s
income. The cannot afford to pay for an attorney.

Asked on October 17, 2019 under Criminal Law, Illinois


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

Yes, you can be denied a public defender for this reason. To avoid people "gaming" the system and making the state & taxpayers pay for their attorneys when they don't need, the courts don't look only to the defendant's official "income." They also look to the other resources and support she has. You live with your parents, so you get the equivalent of rent paid for you; if they pay for your food, clothing, child/baby, or other living expenses, that is the equivalent of other resources or money available to you--and if they are paying for all those things (essentially room and board) and supporting you, then they are viewed as a source of payment for an attorney, too. You have a child, so the child's father should be paying child support to you. In short, there is support which you are receiving and which should be available to you which is considered in determining whether or not you should get a public defender. There is only limited resources for public defenders; they'd go first to people who have no family helping to support them.

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