Legal aid - Finland
TABLE OF CONTENTS
What are the costs of a trial and who should normally pay them?
What is legal aid?
Can I benefit from legal aid?
Can legal aid be obtained for all disputes?
Is there a specific procedure for emergencies?
Where can I obtain an application form for legal aid?
Which documents should I attach to my request for legal aid?
Where should I register my request for legal aid?
How will I be informed of whether or not I am eligible for legal aid?
If I qualify for legal aid, what should I do?
If I qualify for legal aid, who will choose my lawyer?
If I qualify for legal aid, will this cover all the costs of my trial?
If I qualify for partial legal aid, who will pay the other costs?
If I qualify for legal aid, will it cover any review I might make following the trial?
If I qualify for legal aid, can it be withdrawn before the end of the trial (or even after the trial)?
If I do not qualify for legal aid, can I appeal against this decision?
1. What are the costs of a trial and who should normally pay them?
Trial costs vary according to the size and type of case from about €1 000 to €20 000. The largest portion of the costs are counsel's fees. The court requires the party who loses the case to pay the other party's legal costs. The basic hourly rate for legal aid is €84.
Single people whose monthly available funds are €650 or less and spouses who each have available funds of €550 or less a month may receive legal aid free of charge.
Single people with available funds of over €650 but not more than €1 400 and spouses who each have available funds of over €550 but not more than €1 200 may receive legal aid, but will have to pay a portion of the costs themselves.
Legal aid is not granted to single people with available funds of more than €1 400 or spouses with available funds of more than €1 200 each.
The State always covers at least 25% of the trial costs. The maximum portion a legal aid recipient is liable to pay is 75% of the total costs of the trial and this applies in the case of single people with available funds of at least €1 301 and not more than €1 400 and spouses each with available funds of at least €1 101, but not more than €1 200.
The amount a legal aid beneficiary is required to pay also depends on their assets. If they have bank deposits or readily realisable assets of over €5 000, they must put towards the trial costs at least 50% of that part of their assets that exceeds €5 000.
2. What is legal aid?
Legal aid is the granting of state-funded assistance needed by people who are financially unable to meet the costs involved in a legal case themselves.
3. Can I benefit from legal aid?
Legal aid may be granted to people whose case is being heard in a Finnish court or whose place of residence is in Finland. Legal aid may also be granted to European Union and European Economic Area nationals who are working or seeking work in Finland.
Legal aid may not be granted to companies or associations. Only where there are special grounds, may traders be granted legal aid in trials or other cases.
4. Can legal aid be obtained for all disputes?
Legal aid may be obtained both for trials and for other legal cases not heard by a court, such as distribution of matrimonial assets, distribution of an estate, estate inventories and so on.
Legal aid is not granted if the applicant has legal expenses insurance covering the case.
Legal aid may not be obtained if the case is of minor importance to the applicant or if the granting of legal aid would clearly be pointless in comparison with the benefit the applicant would derive from it or if bringing the case would constitute an improper use of the law or if the case is based on a transferred right.
In straightforward trials, legal aid does not cover representation in court, although in such cases advice may be obtained from a Legal Aid Office (oikeusaputoimisto).
5. Is there a specific procedure for emergencies?
There is no specific procedure but the Legal Aid Office must be informed of the emergency.
6. Where can I obtain an application form for legal aid?
Legal aid application forms can be obtained from all Legal Aid Offices and the Ministry of Justice.
7. Which documents should I attach to my request for legal aid?
Legal aid applicants must provide the Legal Aid Office with documentary evidence of their own monthly available funds and those of their spouse or cohabiting partner.
Outgoings taken into account are tax, housing expenditure such as rent or service charges or corresponding charges paid by private home owners, mortgage interest, maintenance payments, day-care payments, debt restructuring payments and debt recovery payments.
The first €250 of the outgoings is not taken into account, i.e. only the part of the outgoings exceeding €250 qualifies.
Proof of assets must also be provided, for example, in the form of deposit receipts, bank statements or tax receipt.
8. Where should I register my request for legal aid?
Applications for legal aid, together with proof of income, may be sent to any Legal Aid Office, although preferably to the one nearest to where the case is to be dealt with. The addresses can be found on the internet
9. How will I be informed of whether or not I am eligible for legal aid?
Legal aid decisions are taken by the Legal Aid Offices and applicants are notified accordingly by post.
10. If I qualify for legal aid, what should I do?
Where legal aid is granted on the basis of the application, the brief is taken on by the Legal Aid Office. Applicants must provide the Legal Aid Office with their contact details.
11. If I qualify for legal aid, who will choose my lawyer?
For trials the legal aid may be provided by private or public counsel. Applicants are entitled to look for counsel by themselves before contacting the Legal Aid Office. The Legal Aid Office may also help with finding private counsel. When applying for legal aid, applicants may specify their preference of counsel.
Where the applicant has found their own counsel, the brief is taken on by the latter.
Where the applicant does not have counsel, the Legal Aid Office appoints one.
12. If I qualify for legal aid, will this cover all the costs of my trial?
Legal aid covers all expenditure necessary for the case, such as counsel's fees and charges, interpreting and translation costs, witnesses' fees and initial claim costs.
Legal aid does not cover the other party's costs, if the legal aid beneficiary loses the case.
13. If I qualify for partial legal aid, who will pay the other costs?
The percentage of the legal costs which the legal aid beneficiary is required to meet is stipulated in the legal aid decision; the beneficiary pays this amount directly to private counsel.
If the legal aid has been provided by public counsel, the beneficiary pays the percentage for which they are liable to the Legal Aid Office.
14. If I qualify for legal aid, will it cover any review I might make following the trial?
Legal aid covers all the costs necessary for the case, including appeal and initial claim costs.
15. If I qualify for legal aid, can it be withdrawn before the end of the trial (or even after the trial)?
If the person to whom the legal aid was granted is found not to have been eligible for it or if the circumstances on the basis of which the legal aid was granted have changed or no longer apply, the Legal Aid Office may amend its decision or decide to suspend the granting of the legal aid. This may also be done by the court handling the case.
At the same time it will be decided whether the legal aid beneficiary is liable for any payment for the aid they have received and, if so, how much.
16. If I do not qualify for legal aid, can I appeal against this decision?
If a legal aid application is turned down, an appeal may be made to a court. Where an application is turned down, the applicant is sent instructions on how to appeal. The legal aid applicant sends the appeal to the Legal Aid Office.
Public counsel provide legal aid in all legal matters (including cases not brought before a court).
In court cases legal aid is also provided by private counsel.
Applicants must submit information on the case in addition to the information on their financial circumstances.
The legal aid ceiling is 100 hours, although where there are special grounds a court may allow legal aid to be granted for more than the 100 hours.
Where a legal aid applicant has legal costs insurance covering the case, legal aid is not as a rule granted.
Applicants who would qualify for legal aid free of charge on the basis of their income may be granted legal aid to cover the insurance excess.
In exceptional circumstances, legal aid may be granted to cover legal costs exceeding the upper limit of the legal costs insurance.
In criminal cases the public defence counsel system is the primary legal aid arrangement. The right to defence counsel does not depend on the beneficiary's financial circumstances; defence counsel may be obtained on the same terms as a legal adviser. The defence counsel is appointed by the court.
Further information on applying for legal aid can be found at Oikeusapu .
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