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  • Public defender
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Introduction - Public defender

Public defender system

This is a system where the court appoints, at the government’s expenses, a defense counsel for the defendant when there is no privately appointed attorney.

When a public defender is needed

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When the suspect against whom an detention warrant has been applied for or who is subject to warrant substance examination does not have a lawyer
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When the suspect against whom examination for appropriateness of capture/arrest has been applied for does not have a lawyer
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When the defendant, at the time of the detention, was a minor, 70 years or older, is deaf-mute, is suspected of being mentally or physically incapacitated, or has been indicted for a crime subject to capital punishment, life imprisonment, or imprisonment of 3 years or more.
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When it is deemed necessary to protect the defendant’s rights in consideration of the defendant’s age, intelligence and level of education, or if the defendant has not expressly refused the appointment of public defender.
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When there is no defense counsel in a case where a trial preparation date has been designated or if defense counsel no longer exists after the designation of the trial preparation date.
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For certain re-trials
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When the defendant has no defense counsel in a jury trial
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In case of application for medical treatment and custody under Medical Treatment and Custody Act
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In case where Martial Court Act is applicable.

In any one of the above cases, the court, in its own discretion, appoints a public defender on the defendant’s behalf.

Discretionary appointment of public defender

When the defendant is unable to appoint a defense counsel because he/she is destitute or due to other reasons, the defendant may ask the court to appoint a public defender. Reasons other than destituteness are decided by the court, and the court has been expanding this scope gradually. Prior to March 1, 2003, the court used to appoint public defenders unilaterally. But since then, the courts have been following the discretionary public defender appointment system whereby the defendant may apply for an appointment of public defender by choosing among those defense counsels in the public defenders candidate list at the court.

Application for appointment of public defender

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Defendant
The court, when serving the indictment on the indicted defendant, also provides a notice with regard to the selection of public defender. If the defendant cannot appoint a lawyer due to destituteness or other reasons, the defendant should fill out “Application for Appointment of Public Defender” on the reverse of the notice, sign it and submit it to the court as soon as possible (by no later than 48 hours from the receipt of the notice).
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Applicant other than defendant
The defendant’s legal agent, spouse, lineal relations and siblings may appoint a lawyer independently.

Public defender

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Public defenders are assigned to each court, and the defendant mat appoint any one of those assigned defenders or any lawyers he/she wishes to appoint by indicating Application for Appointment of Public Defender. Provided, however, the selected lawyer may not be appointed depending on the circumstances of each lawyer.
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In principle, each defendant may appoint one public defender. However, in the case of joint defendants, one public defender may be appointed for the joint defendants so long as there are no conflicts of interest among the defendants.
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The public defenders are chosen among lawyers or trainees in the Judicial Training and Research Institute and their compensation is paid by the court.