Obtaining an Attorney

Guidelines to Determine Eligibility for Indigent Defense Services

When should I apply for Court appointed counsel?

If the circumstances qualify for a Court appointed counsel, an application should be filled out for each new file and/or violation.  The Pennington County Public Defender's Office is appointed to each file rather than being appointed to a defendant.  Thus, an application must be completed for each new charge and each new violation.  If multiple files are pending, one application may be applied to all files listed.

  • If the defendant is not in custody and has made the Initial Appearance, the defendant may fill out the application at the Pennington County Public Defender's Office during regular business hours. 

  • If the defendant is in custody, the Pennington County Public Defender's Office sends a notary and two attorneys to assist with bond arguments and applications during the Initial Appearance, which is video relayed from the jail to the courthouse.  Otherwise, the defendant may ask the Correctional Officer for an application on the jail cell block.

Which circumstances qualify for a Court appointed counsel?

Indigent parties may apply for legal counsel to be provided by Pennington County when they have a statutory "right to counsel" and in those circumstances where the defendant may be deprived of their liberty if they are convicted.  Pennington County reserves the right to affix a lien to the person's property for the cost of such services provided to the indigent person in accordance with state law.  (SDCL 23A-40-11)

  • A defendant charged with a felony in Circuit Court qualifies under SDCL 7-16A-9.
  • A defendant charged with a Class 1 or Class 2 Misdemeanor in Magistrate Court, unless the Court has determined that there is no possibility of imprisonment, qualifies for Court appointed counsel.  The defendant has a right to counsel for those circumstances including a suspended sentence of imprisonment or a deferred imposition of sentence under SDCL 7-16A-9 and 23A-40-6.1.
  • A juvenile in the dispositional stage of any juvenile proceedings regarding allegations of unruliness or delinquency under SDCL 26-7A-30.
  • Parent, legal guardian, or custodian in the dispositional stage of any proceedings regarding a charge of abuse and neglect qualifies under SDCL 26-8A.
  • Developmentally disabled persons that meet the criteria for board ordered commitment qualify under SDCL 27B-7-41.
  • Persons that meet the criteria for an involuntary mental illness commitment qualify pursuant to SDCL 27A-11A-7.
  • Persons being committed for drug and alcohol abuse qualify pursuant to SDCL 34-20A-85 and SDCL 34-20A-85.1.
  • A petitioner in a habeas corpus matter qualifies under SDCL 21-27-4.

Which circumstances do not qualify for a Court appointed counsel?

Pennington County provides counsel to indigent persons only to the extent articulated above and only to the extent required by state and/or federal law.  Accordingly, Pennington County does not provide counsel to indigent persons in other circumstances, including but not limited to:

  • A defendant charged with a Class 2 Misdemeanor or a petty offense in Magistrate Court, where the Court has determined that there is no possibility of imprisonment, does not qualify for Court appointed counsel.
  • Any violation of a municipal ordinance does not qualify.
  • A parent, legal guardian, or custodian in an informal adjustment proceeding does not qualify.
  • Any matters pertaining to request for clemency, pardons, or removal from the sex offender registry do not qualify.
  • In any civil matter to include divorce proceedings, guardianship proceedings, or child support modifications for which there is no criminal charge or implication does not qualify.