Virginia Defenders

DEDICATED to protecting and defending the rights and dignity of our clients through zealous, compassionate, high quality legal advocacy.

About Us

The Virginia Indigent Defense Commission (VIDC) was statutorily established in 2004, replacing the Public Defender Commission, to protect the Constitutional right to counsel for people who cannot afford to hire their own lawyer. VIDC is an independent state agency that supports the judicial branch of the Commonwealth of Virginia. The Commission consists of 14 members designated by Code of Virginia § 19.2-163.02.  Commission members meet quarterly to review and discuss the operations and needs of the agency.

VIDC manages 28 public defender offices and 2 satellite offices across Virginia, with a central administrative office located in Henrico County.  In addition to offering field office support, the VIDC administrative office is tasked with administering Court-Appointed Counsel Certification for qualified attorneys wishing to accept court-appointed cases in Virginia.  VIDC provides high-quality training to all certified attorneys, including public defenders and private certificate court-appointed counsel, to continually improve criminal defense representation to the vulnerable citizens of Virginia who are not able to hire an attorney of their choosing.

In addition, VIDC is responsible for the following:

Agency Overview - Statutory Authority & Organizational Structure

Virginia Judicial Branch - Indigent Criminal Defense Overview

Indigent Defense in Virginia


in·​di·​gent | Adjective
Suffering from extreme poverty: Impoverished

Eligibility for Court-Appointed Counsel

Eligibility for court-appointed counsel is based on the total amount of available funds of the accused (including net income and assets) as described in Code of Virginia § 19.2-159. Further, the defendant must be charged with a criminal offense that may be punishable by confinement in the state correctional facility or jail.  Civil cases are not eligible for court-appointed counsel.

Court Determination & Appointing Counsel

If the court determines a defendant to be indigent, the court will appoint an attorney from the Office of the Public Defender. If the jurisdiction lacks a public defender office, the public defender is unable to represent the defendant by reason of conflict of interest, or the court finds that appointment of other counsel is necessary to attain the ends of justice, counsel appointed by the court for representation of the accused shall be selected by a fair system of rotation among members of the bar practicing before the court whose names are on the list maintained by the Indigent Defense Commission pursuant to § 19.2-163.01.

Certified Counsel

Public Defenders

Public Defenders work in the Office of the Public Defender and are employed by the VIDC.  Currently, we have over 300 Public Defenders throughout Virginia.  Each office handles trial and appellate cases and try cases in the General District, Juvenile & Domestic Relations, and Circuit Courts. All of our highly skilled attorneys must complete the VIDC Initial Certification process to accept court-appointments and must maintain their status thereafter by completing the required amount of legal education courses to renew their certification every 2 years.  Within their office, Public Defenders receive support from their Chief Public Defender and in-house defense team, which is composed of VIDC employed paralegals, investigators, mitigation specialists, legal assistants and office managers.

Private Certified Court-Appointed Counsel

Private certified court-appointed counsel are private attorneys who have completed the VIDC Certification process in order to be considered for court-appointed cases and included on the Certified Counsel List. Private certified attorneys typically take court-appointed cases in addition to cases accepted through their private practice.  These attorneys are not employed by the VIDC, nor do they work in an Office of the Public Defender.  However, private certified attorneys are required to complete the same training and certification requirements as our Public Defenders.  Private certified attorneys are also required to comply with the VIDC Standards of Practice for Indigent Defense Counsel that apply to all of our Public Defenders.  VIDC does not manage compensation of private certified court-appointed counsel.  Per Code of Virginia § 19.2-163counsel appointed to represent an indigent client accused in a criminal case shall be compensated for services on an hourly basis at a rate set by the Supreme Court of Virginia in a total amount not to exceed the amounts specified in the code.

VIDC Administrative Office

VIDC has an administrative office located in Henrico, Virginia. This office is home to the agency’s Executive and Deputy Directors, Budget and Finance Department, Information Technology, Human Resources, Hiring & Recruitment, Court-Appointed Attorney Certification, and Legal Training Department.

VIDC Administrative Office
1604 Santa Rosa Road, Suite 200, Henrico, Virginia, 23229 | (804) 662-7249