How to Apply
Applying for Public Defender Services in Centre County
The Office of the Public Defender of Centre County was established in September 1970. The office is mandated by the Pennsylvania Constitution and the County Code and funded by the county commissioners. Since our inception we have continuously provided free legal representation to indigent individuals charged with a crime or otherwise entitled to free legal representation.
Anyone (adult or juvenile) charged in Centre County with: 1) a misdemeanor or felony offense, or a summary offense where the court may impose incarceration; 2) contempt for failing to obey a PFA, Child Support Order, or probation payment contract; or 3) a probation or parole violation; may apply for our services by calling (814) 355-6798 to schedule an interview. It is extremely important that anyone interested in receiving public defender services call us immediately after their receipt of the charging documents. Criminal complaints, notices of parole violations, contempt notices, and juvenile delinquency petitions contain directions to contact us at this telephone number, please use it if you desire our services. We do not automatically represent anyone in these types of cases, each application must be processed and approved. If we are currently representing someone on one charge and he receives new charges, he must call and apply on those new charges to be assured representation.
At the office interview we will make an assessment as to whether an applicant qualifies for our services. The qualifying annual income amount is roughly the equivalent of the Federal Poverty Income Guideline threshold, but anyone interested in receiving our services should come in for personal assessment as there are certain extraordinary expenses which may be deductible from the applicant's gross annual income in the qualification process. If the applicant qualifies, an attorney will interview him at that time. Even if the applicant does not qualify financially for our services we can provide valuable information including: 1) how to appeal our decision to the Court Administrator's Office; 2) a referral to the Centre County Bar Association's low income assistance program; and 3) a list of local private criminal defense attorneys who may be able to help him.
In addition to these criminal cases, the Commonwealth Court has determined that our office is responsible for representing any state parole violator incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Rockview. This order applies regardless of his county of sentence or the stage of his parole revocation process. Any Rockview inmate desiring our representation at a Revocation Hearing or an appeal of a revocation decision should contact us in writing as soon as possible. We do not represent anyone at a Hearing to determine whether they should be paroled and cannot appeal a decision not to release an inmate on parole.
When appointed by the Court, we provide representation in state collateral challenges to a conviction in a petition under the Post Conviction Relief Act. We do not provide representation in federal court and cannot represent an individual where an attorney has entered an appearance for an individual and not been granted permission to withdraw by the court. We do represent individuals in some civil cases.
The Centre County Court of Common Pleas appoints our office to represent the mentally challenged in Mental Health / Intellectual Disabilities commitment proceedings. The court also appoints us as guardian ad litem for abused and neglected children in Children and Youth Services Dependency proceedings, termination of parental rights proceedings, and some private civil custody cases. There is no application process in these types of cases as we are appointed by the court at the time a petition is filed. If you qualify for our services in these types of cases we will contact you.
The office is staffed with seven full-time attorneys and opens approximately 2,100 new cases each year. Our clients range in age from new born babies to octogenarians. Their problems range from summary traffic cases to capital murder cases. Our representation extends from the initial hearing through a Pennsylvania State Supreme Court Appeal. We are located at Room 104 of the Centre County Courthouse at the corner of High and Allegheny Streets in Bellefonte.