When charged with an indictable offense in New Jersey, all defendants
are entitled to be represented by an attorney, whether or not
they can afford one. For those who cannot afford an attorney,
the court will provide what is known as the Uniform Defendant
Intake, or “5A form.” This is the application for
a public defender.
The form asks for information regarding a defendant’s
residence, criminal history, employment history and financial
status. It seeks to weigh the defendant’s income and assets
against his expenses and debts to determine if the defendant meets
the indigence standards to qualify for a public defender. The
defendant also will be asked if he requires an interpreter and,
if so, for what language.
Contrary to popular belief, the New Jersey Office of the Public
Defender does not decide which applicants will be accepted for
representation. That decision is made by the courts, based on
the information provided on the 5A form.
Once the court has decided that a defendant qualifies for a
public defender, the case is referred to the NJOPD Regional office
in the county in which the case is to be heard. The Deputy Public
Defender in charge of that Regional office will then assign an
attorney to handle the case.
The New Jersey Office of the Public Defender is committed to
providing the highest quality of legal representation to all clients
assigned to the agency by the courts.