You always have the right to be represented by a lawyer in municipal court if you can afford to pay for a lawyer. If you have a low income, you may have a right to a court-appointed lawyer depending on what you are charged with. If you have a low income, you have a right to have a court-appointed lawyer represent you in municipal court if it is “likely” that you may be sentenced to prison or if a finding of guilty may cause you a “consequence of magnitude,” like a large fine or a loss of your driver’s license. Otherwise, you do not have a right to a court-appointed lawyer.
Most municipal courts have a lawyer appointed to be the public defender for that municipal court. Other municipal courts hire people on a per case basis to act as the public defender. To find out how to request a municipal public defender, call the municipal court clerk in the town where you have to appear in court. To get a municipal public defender, you must fill out an application and pay an application fee of up to $200. You may ask the municipal court to waive the application fee or you may ask the court to let you pay the application fee in up to four months. You must also meet the financial eligibility requirements set by that municipal court. The municipal court judge for that town will decide if you are eligible for or not eligible for a municipal public defender.