State and federal law provides that all persons have the constitutional right to be represented by an attorney if they have been accused of a crime and the punishment for that crime could be time in jail or prison. If that person is financially unable to hire an attorney, then the law provides that an attorney shall be appointed to represent them. 

This office is an efficient means of meeting the South Carolina and federal constitutional requirements of the right to counsel whenever a person below federal poverty guidelines is charged with an offense that could cost them their liberty.

The State Legislature and Dorchester County provide financial support. The office handles cases in state General Sessions Court, Transfer Court and Probation Violation Court. Local Magistrates may appoint public defenders in cases that threaten a jail sentence.

The office also represents many of the youth who are charged with crimes/delinquency in Family Court. The office is managed by the First Circuit Public Defender


  • Provide legal representation to low income citizens charged with serious crimes
  • Represent in Family Court juvenile defendants charged with crimes
  • Handle cases for citizens who are indigent and are facing an immediate jail sentence without an available alternative sentence or a fine