A court-appointed lawyer may be provided to an individual after the individual asks the court for one and provides details about his financial situation to prove he is otherwise financially unable to hire a lawyer, says FindLaw. Each state and county has rules on how an individual qualifies.
The Miranda warning states that if an individual cannot afford an attorney, one is provided by the government, says FindLaw. Many states have a public defender's office staffed with defense lawyers.
The rules regarding qualification do consider how serious the crime is and how long any trial may be. Some states have rules that allow a court to provide a defendant with partial indigency, which means the defendant may have a decent income, but it may not be high enough to afford a private defense attorney, says FindLaw. If partial indigency is allowed, the defendant may be ordered to reimburse the government for a portion of the costs incurred during the defendant's representation.
Typically during an arraignment, the judge asks the defendant if he would like to apply for a court-appointed attorney. Some courts may appoint a lawyer right away, while others may delay the case and appoint a lawyer after a review of the defendant's financial situation, states FindLaw.