Best Free Criminal Attorney Guide



You have a constitutional right to a criminal attorney after you are arrested. By law, you are not required to speak to the police. If you cannot afford a lawyer, you have the legal right to a public defender. 

If you are arrested or charged with a crime in Chicago, you can request a lawyer. It is crucial that you understand your rights and the benefits of having a lawyer. Knowing these benefits and where to turn for pro bono, legal aid can make all the difference in your case.

What Is a Criminal Attorney? 

A criminal court lawyer is a type of attorney that specializes in cases surrounding an arrest or criminal charge. These cases may also include appeal and post-trial cases. Within this specialization, lawyers will often find a niche to work within. These attorneys may specialize in certain types of criminal cases, such as DUIs, murder, assault, or theft. 

A criminal attorney works to defend their clients against their charges. The attorney may also help educate their clients and help them obtain the necessary paperwork for court proceedings. These types of lawyers may either charge for their services or offer pro bono legal aid. 

What Is a Pro Bono Attorney?

A pro bono criminal lawyer is a criminal lawyer that offers their services for free or at a low-cost. Pro bono legal opportunities allow more people to exercise their rights and receive legal counsel. These attorneys are especially crucial in low-income communities where individuals may not be able to afford legal services. 

The Benefits of Having a Criminal Court Attorney

Having a criminal attorney provides several benefits, including: 

  • A lawyer is familiar with legal proceedings and languages and can help you understand.
  • An attorney can handle your legal paperwork on your behalf. 
  • A lawyer understands your rights and can make sure they are not violated. 
  • A lawyer can make sure that you are not being taken advantage of. 
  • Your attorney is devoted to defending you. 

Standard Eligibility Requirements for a Pro Bono Criminal Lawyer

To qualify for a pro bono attorney, you must be eligible for legal aid. Legal aid qualifications vary between nonprofit and government organizations. However, you must generally be considered low to moderate-income to obtain free legal assistance. You may also qualify for legal expenses that are based upon a sliding scale. 

To get a pro bono criminal lawyer, you must find an attorney that represents cases similar to your own. For example, if you are charged with a DUI, you must find an organization that works with that type of case. Alternatively, you can request a public defender from the courts. 

Do You Need a Pro Bono Criminal Lawyer Even if You Committed the Crime?

You will still benefit from a criminal attorney if you committed the crime you are accused of. You have the right to a fair trial. If you are charged with a crime, it is the government’s responsibility to prove your case beyond a reasonable doubt. 

Your lawyer can also make sure that your rights have not been violated. Criminal lawyers understand the law and have worked similar cases to your own. They are more likely to catch problems with evidence, chain of custody, or any other aspect of the case. 

Having a lawyer may also give you access to plea bargains or lesser sentencing, should you choose to plead guilty. 

Finding a Pro Bono Attorney in Chicago

You can obtain a pro bono attorney in Chicago through several organizations. There are several nonprofits within Chicago that offer free and low-cost legal services. Those nonprofits include, but are not limited to: 

  • Access Living
  • Domestic Violence Legal Clinic 
  • Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago
  • Lawyers for the Creative Arts
  • Cabrini Green Legal Aid
  • The Law Project
  • Chicago Immigration Legal Services
  • Chicago Legal Clinic
  • The John Marshall Fair Housing Legal Clinic
To obtain a pro bono attorney, you will need to meet an individual nonprofit’s eligibility requirements. Additionally, you must have a type of case that the organization handles. You can contact an organization directly for more details, including how to apply for help. 

Using the First Legal Defense Legal Aid (FDLA) Hotline

If you need a pro bono criminal lawyer, you can contact the FDLA hotline 24/7. This hotline connects you with resources in your local area, including public defenders. This is a free service that has been offered to Chicago residents since 1995, day or night.

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