Why must I provide my income in order for my 18 year old to get a public defender?

UPDATED: Oct 2, 2022

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Why must I provide my income in order for my 18 year old to get a public defender?

My 18 year old son was arrested with possession with intent to deliver an illegal substance. He was released from jail on unsecured bail. He had been staying here and there and moved in with me his mother to get back on track. He has no job. I had to provide my income to the public defender which according to their guidelines may be too much. How is that possible?? He was the one charged as an adult and has no job. I only provide food, bed and shower for him. What if he was staying with a friend and not a family member. I am not responsible for his legal bills. He literally cannot afford an attorney, so why should he be denied?

Asked on August 1, 2019 under Criminal Law, Pennsylvania


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

There is a much larger demand for public defenders than there are public defenders, and it's not uncommon for people to try to hide or understate their official "income" in order to qualify, while still drawing support from other sources, including family. As a result, in evaluating whether someone is eligible for a public defender, they look not just at wages or salary, but at all sources of support or resources available to a person. Because you have chosen to provide considerable support to your son (a place to live; food), you have voluntarily made yourself, for this purposes, just such a resource potentially available to pay for a private attorney.

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