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Initial Certification for Misdemeanor, Felony and Juvenile Cases:
Code of Virginia, §19.2-163.03, requires an attorney seeking to represent an indigent accused in a criminal case, in addition to being a member in good standing of the Virginia State Bar (VSB), to meet specific criteria required for each type or level of case. Typically, attorneys must first satisfy the training and experience requirements to be eligible to apply for certification.
The goal of certification is to provide the most vulnerable clients, who cannot afford to hire an attorney of their choosing, quality representation. Attorneys should take their time, learn as much as possible, and gain experience in representing clients in criminal defense matters prior to applying for certification.
Generally, a lawyer that has been an active member of the bar for less than one year, must first register and complete the Certification Training (A lawyer who has not yet passed the bar cannot attend Certification Training nor apply for certification). If the attorney is applying to be certified in misdemeanor and felony cases, only day 1 of the training needs to be completed. If the attorney is applying to be certified in juvenile cases, the attorney must attend both days of training.
Once the attorney completes day 1 of the Certification Training, the attorney is eligible for misdemeanor certification. The attorney must submit a completed application to be considered for approval to be placed on the misdemeanor certified counsel list.
For felony and juvenile certifications, in addition to completing the Certification Training, the statute requires the attorney to complete, from beginning to end (day of trial or preliminary hearing is not the beginning), four cases (not necessarily charges) for each type of certification as a licensed attorney. For juvenile certification, the attorney must have represented a juvenile in each case as defense counsel in a delinquency matter. Once the attorney has gained experience in handling at least four cases as lead or co-counsel, then the attorney may apply to be considered for approval to be placed on the certified counsel list. The application requests that the attorney provide information on at least four completed cases. Please note that probation violations and show cause proceedings will not be accepted.
Generally, for attorneys that have been an active member of the bar for more than one year, if the attorney has completed, within the last year, four separate cases for each case type, upon submission of a completed application, the attorney may qualify for certification. The requirement to attend Certification Training under this circumstance will be waived.
Click HERE for the statutory qualification requirements and other information.
Click HERE for the Certified Counsel List.
Click HERE for VIDC Certification Training Dates.
In order to remain on the certified counsel list, an attorney must re-certify every two years by completing Continuing Legal Education courses (CLE) approved by the Mandatory-CLE Board and VIDC then submitting a completed re-certification form. These CLEs are generally provided by other sponsors such as VA CLE, VBA or VACDL and focus on criminal defense.
Attorneys are not required to attend the Certification Training again to re-certify. Attorneys should attend a more advanced CLE to be commensurate with experience.
To re-certify for misdemeanor and felony cases, at least 6 hours of approved CLE is required. To re-certify for juvenile cases, in addition to the 6 hours previously mentioned, 4 hours of approved CLE on representing juveniles is required, for a total of at least 10 hours of CLE.
Please note that the VIDC is a separate entity from the VSB and does not have access to attorneys' certificate of completion of CLEs. Thus, an attorney must submit a re-certification form to the VIDC to re-certify.
For the list of MCLE and VIDC approved courses for re-certification, click HERE.
Once the attorney has met the certification requirements, the attorney may apply for certification and re-certification on-line by opening an account through the Attorney Certification System (ACeS) or by submitting a hardcopy of the application.
Once you become certified to be appointed to represent indigent defendants, it is recommended that you contact the clerk of the court you marked on the application to let them know that you are certified and would like to be appointed to cases. They will alert you to any local practices and additional requirements to be added to their list.
Mandatory Standards of Practice for Indigent Defense Counsel:
Once an attorney is certified to serve as court-appointed counsel for indigent defendants, the attorney is required to meet the Standards of Practice. The Standards of Practice is enforced through a complaint process. A finding of a violation of the Standards may result in the removal of the attorney from the certified counsel list.
Click HERE for FAQs
You may use our online Attorney Certification System (ACeS) to apply for or renew your certification to accept court appointed cases. The following link will allow you to begin the application process:
Attorney Certification System (ACeS) - Login Page (If you are unsure of whether you have previously opened an account please contact (804) 662-7249 ext. 139 before proceeding to the ACeS Login Page.)
**Please note: If you are applying for felony and/or juvenile certification and you have completed five cases in the last five years, you MUST take the certification training to be certified for felony and/or juvenile appointments.
Initial Certification Application (Current Prosecutor) -If you are a current prosecutor or would like to use your previous legal experience as a prosecutor to be granted a waiver, please fill out this version of the application.
To guarantee inclusion on the Certified Court Appointed Attorney List, please submit your completed application to:
Virginia Indigent Defense Commission
1604 Santa Rosa Road, Suite 200
Richmond, VA 23229
Fax (804) 662-7359
For further information, please contact:
Attorney Certification Verification: Ms. Brandon Ellis (BEllis@adm.idc.virginia.gov (804) 662-7249, ext. 139)
Certification Attorney: Ms. Rebecca Norris (RNorris@adm.idc.virginia.gov (804) 662-7249, ext. 134)