Legal aid & Preparation of the case

You always have the right to self-paid legal aid. Sometimes legal aid will be provided and paid for by the State. You also have the right to meetings and confidential communication with your attorney at law.

Right to legal aid

When you are detained, you have the right to legal aid. In Estonia, only attorneys at law and their apprentices can defend you in criminal proceedings. 

An attorney at law can help you to challenge your detention and to prepare your criminal case. Immediately upon your detention, the police must explain this right to you in writing and if necessary orally.

An attorney at law shall be appointed by police, prosecutor’s office or court if you had not chosen an attorney but have requested the appointment of an attorney or you have not requested an attorney, but the participation of the attorney is mandatory according the law. If the appointment of the attorney is not mandatory according the law, then the police, prosecutor or court explains the terms and conditions of payment of remuneration and the procedure for compensation for costs to the attorney appointed to you. 

Read more about defence in criminal proceedings.

Free legal aid

You always have the right to invite a self-paid attorney at law of your own choosing.

However, there can be situations where an attorney at law will be provided and paid for by the state. These are situations where:

  • You have not invited an attorney at law but the participation of an attorney is compulsory in the criminal proceedings.
  • You have invited an attorney at law but for some reason he or she cannot participate in a procedural activity where the presence of an attorney is compulsory.
  • You have not invited an attorney because you cannot afford to pay for one. Please note that in this situation your level of poverty will not be evaluated subjectively but according to the pertinent laws.

The procedure for assigning an attorney at law is explained in the Code of Criminal Procedure and the submission of application for state legal aid is explained in the State Legal Aid Act. If the participation of a criminal defense attorney at law is mandatory and you have not chosen a defense attorney at law by agreement is not required to submit an application to receive state legal aid in the criminal case.

Communication with an attorney at law

During your detention period, you can meet with your attorney at law freely, without the special permission of the person directing the process and without time limits. The police must ensure circumstances where you can confidentially meet with your attorney at law. The police or other authorities must not listen to your conversation with the attorney at law. 

If you do not speak Estonian, in some situations you have the right to a State provided translator during your meetings with your attorney at law. These situations are explained in the Code of Criminal Procedure.

Right to defend yourself

It is important to have an attorney at law who can help you to challenge your detention and to prepare your criminal case, if it is being pursued. But, you also have the right to waive an attorney at law in writing during pre-trial proceedings unless participation of an attorney at law is mandatory. If the participation of an attorney at law is not mandatory you have the right to personally defend yourself. This means that you have the right not to use an attorney at law and use all the rights of defence on your own. Read more about when the participation of an attorney at law throughout a criminal proceeding is mandatory

What human rights violation may there be?

If you were not given a chance to invite an attorney at law and you could not, therefore, effectively challenge your detention, it may result in a violation of the right to liberty and security of a person.

If you were not given a chance to invite an attorney at law and you could not, therefore, properly prepare your defence, there was non-permitted interference in your communication or you were not allowed to defend yourself where permitted, it may result in a violation of the right to fair trial.

Resources

Last updated 17/07/2017