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Differences Between Criminal and Civil Legal Aid

What is legal aid?

Legal aid can help you if you cannot afford to pay a solicitor privately. Legal aid provides legal advice and representation in court.

If you need information on criminal legal aid, you should contact the Clerk/Registrar of the court where you are due to appear.

Find out more about civil legal aid.

What is the difference between criminal and civil legal aid?

Criminal legal aid and civil legal aid are separate services.

Criminal legal aid is granted by the Courts. On the other hand, we provide civil legal aid.

Criminal matters concern the prosecution of criminal offences. Civil matters concern disputes between you and another person, or between you and an organisation.

Examples of criminal offences include:

  • Murder/manslaughter
  • Rape
  • Theft
  • Fraud
  • Assault
  • Road traffic offences
  • Offences against the state (e.g. terrorism)

Examples of civil law disputes include:

  • Family disputes – including marriage breakdown and disputes involving your children
  • Actions by the Child and Family Agency (Tusla) to take your children into care or supervise them in your home.
  • Claims for damages as a result of injuries which have been caused to you
  • Claims for damages as a result of breach of a contract
  • Property disputes
  • Disputes with your employer

How do I apply for legal aid?

We grant civil legal aid. You should fully complete the application form which is available here in a printable format and return it to any of our law centres. You can also apply on our on-line application form.

Criminal legal aid is granted by the Court. You will need to complete a statement of means and give it to the judge, who will decide if you can get legal aid.

Do I qualify for legal aid?

In criminal legal aid, the judge will consider your means, and whether, in the interests of justice (because of how serious the charge is, or if there are exceptional circumstances) you should be granted legal aid. There are no set limits for your means and it is up to the judge on the day whether in his view your means are such that you should be granted legal aid.

For civil legal aid we will decide if you can get legal advice based on your application form. We will look at what your disposable (after we grant allowances) income and capital is. We cannot grant legal advice if your disposable income is above €18,000 or your disposable capital (not including the property in which you live, if you own it) is above €100,000.  If you need to go to Court a solicitor will apply for a legal aid certificate on your behalf. At that point we will consider the merits of the case before deciding whether or not to grant legal aid. More information on qualifying for civil legal aid is available here.