Right to Counsel

 
​Every defendant, detainee and suspect are entitled to be represented by an attorney in a criminal proceeding. But only some of the defendants, detainees and suspects are entitled to be represented by a public defender. ​

What is the Public Defense?

The Public Defense was established by virtue of the Public Defense Act, 1995, in order to guarantee quality and professional legal representation for suspects, detainees, defendants and convicts that are entitled to these services. In order to achieve this goal, the law created a new institute responsible for appointing attorneys and supervising their work. The legal work at the Public Defense is performed by an internal staff of attorneys – its permanent employees - and a large number of external attorneys that serve as public defenders and work out of their own offices.

Who is entitled to representation?

All defendants, detainees and suspects are entitled to legal representation in any criminal proceedings that pertain to them, but not all of these defendants, detainees and suspects are legible for public defense. All legal fees and expenses of public defense attorneys are funded by the State of Israel.

Section 18 of the Public Defense Act lists the individuals who are entitled to representation by the Public Defense Office. Eligibility varies from one case to the other, based on the type of legal proceeding, the severity of the offense, and the financial need of the individual requesting the service. There are circumstances in which the applicant's financial state is considered, and others in which eligibility for public defense is not dependent on financial need.

In order to determine whether you are eligible for public defense services, contact one of the public defense offices that are listed on this website. Below is a concise list of the key causes for eligibility for representation by the Public Defense Office.

Defendants:

  • Accused of a severe crime in a district court (punishable by 10 years of imprisonment or more)
  • The prosecution requests that the defendant will be punished by imprisonment
  • Indigent defendants accused of a crime punishable by 5 years of imprisonment or more
  • Disabled defendants (mute, blind, deaf, suspected of having a mental illness or cognitive disabilities)
  • Juveniles (with the exception of minor traffic offenses)
  • Court order was given to appoint a public defender for the defendant
  • A defendant summoned for a hearing as part of a day of consolidated court hearings

Detainees:

  • Indigent detainees held for investigation purposes (but not yet indicted)
  • Detainees for which a request has been filed for remand until end of procedures
  • Juvenile detainees

Additional procedures:

  • Prisoners who were appointed public defenders for a hearing before the parole committee
  • Extradition procedures
  • Sentenced criminals who request retrials when a cause is found
  • Court deliberations held by virtue of the law for the protection of the public from sexual offenders

Requesting representation by the Public Defense Office

In order to determine whether you are eligible by law for representation by a public defense attorney, contact your local public defense office. In order to consider your request you must present:

  • The indictment that has been served
  • Your ID card

In addition, it is recommended to present copies of the following documents:

  • Confirmation of the defendant's income and that of the defendant's family (salaried employees: salary slips; self-employed: annual income report or CPA confirmation of income)
  • Confirmation of pensions received from the National Insurance Institute
  • A bank printout of all transactions in the defendant's checking account over the previous three months
  • Confirmation from the bank on the state of the account
  • Car registration (if relevant) or confirmation from the Bureau of Motor Vehicles that the defendant does not own a vehicle
  • Confirmation of paid/received alimony, rental contract for place of residence
  • Documents that prove monetary debts and debt collection procedures

 

Applicants may not be asked to present all of the forms and documents listed above. The information required will depend on the reason for requesting public defense services.

At the public defense office, applicants will be required to fill in a public defense request form.

For more information and preliminary consultation, contact the public defense eligibility department in your district:

Tel Aviv District
4 Henrietta Szold St., Tel Aviv 6133201
Telephone: 03-6932600/60

Central District
4 Henrietta Szold St., Tel Aviv 6133201
Telephone: 03-6932666

Jerusalem District
34 Ben Yehuda St. City Tower, 12th floor, Jerusalem 91016
Telephone: 02-5696180/1

South District
33 Shazar St. Beit Noam, 8th floor, POB 580 Beersheba 84104
Telephone: 08-6404517

Haifa District
15a Pal-Yam Blvd. (Government District), Haifa 3100801
Telephone: 04-8633700/1/2

North District
1 Hamelacha St. Upper Nazareth 1710602
Telephone: 04-6029111/105

National Public Defense Office
4 Henrietta Szold St., Tel Aviv 6133201
Telephone: 03-6932608

Procedures for checking eligibility

(The following description applies to applicants that are not detained and arrive at the public defense office themselves)

Upon arrival at the public defense office, you will speak to an employee responsible for checking eligibility in your district. The indictment will be checked to determine severity, followed by the defendant's individual characteristics (minor, disabled, etc.).

When necessary, this will be followed by a second stage in which financial eligibility will be considered in accordance with the regulations stated in the Public Defense Ordinance (Representing Needy Defendants). Based on these regulations, defendants are entitled to representation if they and the family members that live in the same home have an income of less than two-thirds of the average national salary and do not own redeemable assets worth more than three times the average salary.

Applicants must support their requests with an affidavit and documents, including reports produced by the National Insurance Institute, salary slips from employers and documentation from banks. In most cases, a decision on eligibility will not be provided on the applicant's first visit to the public defense office. The affidavit will be signed in the presence of an attorney, and the final decision will be made by the district public defense attorney defender or the deputy district public defender.

If the applicant is found eligible, notification of the decision will be sent. The notification will include the name and contact information of the public defender appointed to represent the applicant.

If the applicant is not eligible, notification will be sent with an explanation of the decision reached by the district public defender. To appeal the decision, submit a request to appeal to the National Public Defense Unit.

Court requests for public defenders

If your request for a public defender has been rejected based on the eligibility criteria defined by the Public Defense Act, there is an option of contacting the court directly in order to request that a public defender be appointed to you. The court has broader authority to appoint a public defender to represent a defendant.
During the first court hearing, the defendant may address the judge and request a public defender.
If the court rules that a public defender shall be appointed, the case will be referred to the Public Defense Office for representation.

Fees

Public Defense clients may be required to pay a fee in accordance with the Public Defense Ordinance (payment requirements for those legible for representation), 2000.