Everyone has the right to legal representation if they’ve been accused of committing a criminal offence.
Unfortunately, if it were left entirely up to the market, many people would not be able to afford to mount a legal defence or access legal advice regarding their circumstances.
Legal Aid is designed to help with that.
Administered by the Victorian state government, Legal Aid is a scheme designed to allow anyone access to legal representation when they need it most.
Many different legal practices offer Legal Aid in Melbourne, ready to help people who may not be able to afford expert legal advice or representation otherwise.
And James Dowsley & Associates is one of them.
As proud members of Legal Aid Victoria’s Section 29A Panel, we’re one of VLA’s preferred providers for subsidised criminal law services, providing expert assistance and advice to those who need it.
How does Legal Aid work?
Understanding criminal law, creating a defence, and arguing your case in front of court is something that’s best left to a legal professional.
While the idea of schemes to improve access to legal services has been around since the early 1900s, it didn’t take its current form until 1995 when Victoria Legal Aid was formed.
This is a government scheme that provides people who can’t otherwise access legal services or afford a lawyer with grants of legal assistance.
Depending on your circumstances, Legal Aid may cover part or the entirety of your legal expenses.
You will be allocated an assigned amount of money depending on your needs, as well as the conditions for how the money is to be used.
This grant may be used for:
- Legal advice
- Preparation of documents
- Resolving matters in a dispute
- Representation in court
In Victoria, Legal Aid offers grants for all areas of law – in addition to civil law, it also helps people defend themselves in criminal cases, including both summary, indictable and appellate crimes.
Just be warned: this is a service that’s in high-demand, and government funding is somewhat limited – as such, the system prioritises allocating funding to those that need it the most.
Speaking of which, who’s eligible for Legal Aid?
As we mentioned above, assistance is granted to those who need it most – specifically, people who would otherwise not be able to afford to mount a legal defence.
Whether or not your application is accepted will therefore depend on three things:
- Income (including welfare payments)
- Expenses (legal or otherwise)
In addition to these primary eligibility criteria, your case will also be assessed depending on a wide range of secondary criteria such as:
- The details of your case, as well as the most likely outcome
- What might happen if the grant is denied
- Whether there are grounds to appeal (if it’s to appeal a conviction or sentence)
How to apply for Legal Aid
If you plan on applying for Legal Aid for your criminal case, we suggest contacting a Legal Aid lawyer first.
There are a couple of reasons for this – the first is that you’ll be able to get the ball rolling with your case.
The more important reason however is that they can help you file your application.
While applying for a grant of legal assistance is a matter of filling out a single form, it’s best to get professional help to maximise the chances of your application being accepted.
Just take a quick look at the application and you’ll see that there are countless different details you’ll need to fill out. Our criminal lawyers provide assistance in completing the form, and help ensure you have all the right supporting documentation.
What if my Legal Aid application is rejected?
After a short while, you and your lawyer should get a letter outlining whether or not your application has been successful, as well as the amount and conditions tied to your legal assistance grant.
Sometimes however, it’ll come back telling you that your application is rejected, as well as the reasoning behind rejecting your application.
Thankfully, you aren’t out of options.
One way forward is to lodge an appeal, requesting VLA reconsider their decision.
In addition to appealing the decision to reject assistance, applicants can also appeal specific details such as:
- Conditions set as part of the grant of legal assistance
- Changes to conditions
- The total value of the legal grant
- A decision to end or withdraw a grant
It’s important to remember that as a Government-run initiative, criteria and acceptance are not up to us.
While a criminal lawyer can help you apply – and appeal – at the end of the day the outcome depends on the merits of your case.
Choosing a Legal Aid lawyer in Melbourne
There are Legal Aid lawyers, as well as private lawyers who offer Legal Aid services. What you might have noticed is that not all lawyers offer these services.
Need help finding a Legal Aid lawyer? Get in touch with JDA.
Our legal experts are committed to getting the best outcome for you, no matter what offence you’ve been accused of. We help anyone with any case, including Legal Aid cases. We have a number of LIV Accredited criminal law specialists ready to assist.
Legal Aid criminal lawyers
It isn’t uncommon for there to be financial consequences as a result of a criminal charge.
Even without a conviction, you may be held in gaol awaiting trial or have your employment affected, both of which can affect your ability to pay for legal representation.
Our participation in Legal Aid allows you to access our wealth of expertise and experience in criminal law, without compromising your financial situation.
Our legal experts are specialists in a wide range of different areas of criminal law, and our team include:
- Bail Applications
- Driving & Traffic Offences
- Sexual Offences
- Assault Charges
- Family Violence / Intervention Orders
- Burglary, Robbery & Theft
- Drug Related Offences
- Murder & Manslaughter
- Drink Driving Offences
- Fraud, Dishonesty & Identity Theft
No matter what you’re accused of or your ability to pay for legal representation, our legal team works hard to ensure that you get the best outcome possible.