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Am I eligible for a Public Defense attorney?

Learn how to obtain an attorney by checking your eligibility with a Department of Public Defense (DPD) screening interview.

If you cannot afford an attorney, you must interview by phone to determine eligibility for a public defender. This is called a financial screening. 

Visit our Cases Public Defense supports page for the kinds of representation the Department of Public Defense (DPD) provides.

The screening process

To screen, call the DPD financial screening line at 206-477-9727, 8 am to 5 pm, Monday to Friday. No appointment is necessary.

If you do not have access to a phone, you may use a DPD Hotphone in Seattle or Kent to call us.

The phones are clearly marked and are in the following locations:

  • DPD’s office: 710 2nd Ave, Suite 200, Seattle
  • King County Courthouse: 516 3rd Ave, Seattle – 6th floor hallway beside law library
  • Patricia H. Clark Children and Family Justice Center: 1211 E. Alder St., Seattle – 4th floor, Room 4002
  • Maleng Regional Justice Center: 401 4th Ave. N., Kent – next to room 1B in the rotunda

You can also email to have a DPD screener contact you.

The interview outcome

At the interview, a DPD screener will ask you questions about your financial situation to determine if you qualify for a public defender. The screener is not an attorney and cannot give you legal advice.

If you are found indigent

This means you cannot afford an attorney. You will be assigned to a public defense division.

If you are found able to contribute

This means you are not considered indigent but also do not have enough money to hire a private attorney. You will be assigned to a public defense division and will be asked to sign a promissory note. The note means that you will make payments to help pay for your attorney. King County will send you a monthly bill, giving you up to 12 months to pay for your attorney.

If you are found not indigent

It means you do not qualify for a public defender. In this case, you must hire an attorney on your own. Please see the resources page for places to find legal help in our region. If you are assigned to a public defender division, call the division 4 business days after your interview to find out the name of your attorney. 

If you don’t qualify for a public defender

If we cannot represent you, several other legal resources are available to you.

King County 2-1-1

King County 2-1-1 provides comprehensive information on health and human services to King County residents. Their specialists can direct you to legal services. They can also direct you to other services, including food, shelter, housing, rent and utility assistance, health care, family support, and financial assistance.


The referral line is open Monday through Friday from 8 am to 6 pm

What to expect 

The 2-1-1 specialists are not lawyers and cannot provide legal advice. However, they can direct you to another legal resource, if available. They’ll ask you some questions to determine what help might be available to you.

You can also access the Crisis Center 211 website for information on legal services and service providers.

King County Bar Association

King County Bar Association website

Phone: 206-267-7100

The King County Bar Association provides free legal assistance on many matters, including:

  • Evictions
  • Landlord-tenant disputes
  • Contested divorce
  • Social Security Income (SSI) issues
  • Debt
  • Bankruptcy

They also run Neighborhood Legal Clinics, which provide free 30-minute consultations at several locations in King County.

Washington Law Help

Washington Law Help website

Washington Law Help provides information, resources, self-help packets, and videos on:

  • Family law
  • Housing
  • Consumer issues and debt
  • Protection from abuse
  • Public benefits
  • Senior issues

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)

ACLU of Washington website

Phone: 206-624-2180

Provides legal information and referrals.

Attorney General’s Office Consumer Protection

Attorney General’s Office Consumer Protection website

Phone: 800-551-4636

Offers help on consumer protection issues.

Benefits Law Center

Benefits Law Center website

Phone: 206-686-7252


Provides legal advice and representation to low-income individuals with disabilities, helping them obtain Social Security disability and SSI benefits.

Choose 180

Choose 180 website

Supports young people ensnared in the criminal legal system, empowering them to make good choices, providing workshops and counseling, and offering restorative practices.

Civil Survival

Civil Survival website


Supports people impacted by the criminal legal system.

Community Passageways

Community Passageways website

Phone: 206-257-0774

Supports young people ensnared in the criminal legal process, providing alternatives to incarceration and other services.

Disability Rights Washington

Disability Rights Washington website 

Phone: 206-324-1521 (in King County) or (800) 562-2702 (statewide)

Provides legal information for people with disabilities.

Fair Work Center

Fair Work Center website

Phone: 844-485-1195


Provides a civil legal aid clinic for workers in employment law cases; the clinic is operated in partnership with Seattle University and the University of Washington schools of law.

King County Dispute Resolution Center

King County Dispute Resolution Center website

Phone: 206-443-9603


Offers affordable mediation and conflict resolution services for individuals, families and businesses.

Legal Counsel for Youth & Children

LCYC WA website

Phone: 206-494-0323

Advances legal rights of young people through direct representation, community partnerships, and systemic advocacy.

Legal Voice

Legal Voice website

Phone: 206-682-9552

Advocates for our region’s most marginalized communities, including women of color, lesbians, transgender and gender-nonconforming people, immigrants, people with disabilities, and low-income women.

The Mockingbird Society

Mockingbird Society website

Phone: 206-323-5437

Works with young people and families who have experienced foster care or homelessness.

Moderate Means Program (Washington State Bar Association)

Apply online on the Moderate Means Program webpage

Provides clients of moderate means facing family, consumer or housing law issues with lawyers at reduced fees.  

Northwest Immigrant Rights Project

NWIRP website

Phone: 206-587-4009 or (800) 445-5771 (statewide)

Provides direct legal services to immigrants. 

Northwest Justice Project

NW Justice website

Phone:  206-464-1519

The state’s publicly funded legal aid program, it maintains Washington Law Help and provides legal services in housing, healthcare, education and other areas.

Open Door Legal Services (Seattle Union Gospel Mission)

Open Door Legal Services webpage


David Mace

Phone: 206-682-4642


Provides legal services on criminal warrants, debts, court fines and relicensing, child support and visitation. 


TeamChild website

Phone:  206-322-2444 |

Provides legal services for youth in need of help with housing, education, healthcare and other areas.

Tenant Law Center (Catholic Community Services)

Tenant Law Center webpage

Phone:  206-324-6890

Provides free legal assistance to low-income people in Seattle who are facing evictions, subsidy terminations, debtor/creditor issues, and other needs.

The Unemployment Law Project

Unemployment Law Project website

Phone:  206-441-9178 or (888) 441-9178

Provides legal services to people who have been denied unemployment benefits.

Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle

Urban League website

Phone: 206-461-3792

Provides information on housing, education, employment. 

Washington Innocence Project

Washington Innocence Project website

Phone: 206-636-9479

Provides free investigative and legal services in cases of innocence with supporting newly discovered evidence.