In the Republic of Moldova, the state guaranteed legal aid is offered annually to over 60,000 men and women. The services of a lawyer paid by the state can be used by persons who are part of a penal, civil, contravention or administrative lawsuit, but do not have sufficient means for paying for these services or were arrested in a criminal case or a contravention procedure. Assistance is also offered to child victims of offenses and adult victims of domestic violence or of sexual offenses.
In a response for IPN, Lilian Darii, executive director of the National Council for State Guaranteed Legal Aid, said most of the cases registered for legal assistance are based on requests that came from the prosecution body or the court of law given that the criminal cases prevail, representing about 84% of the total. The people usually seek assistance in civil cases.
The beneficiaries can choose the person who would offer them this assistance. The lists of active lawyers are placed on the website of the National Council for State Guaranteed Legal Aid (cnajgs.md) and on the informative boards of the local offices. But the designation of a concrete lawyer is ultimately decided by the coordinator, taking into account the specialization, availability and workload of the lawyer.
When state guaranteed legal aid is refused
In 2020, there were recorded 505 decisions concerning refusal to provide state guaranteed legal aid. The applications are rejected if the person can cover the costs of legal services or the application is unfounded. The refusal is also argued and can be challenged in an administrative court within 15 workdays of the communication of the decision.
“The state guaranteed legal aid is intended for poor people who need it, but cannot acquire it individually from a lawyer. The state intervenes and contacts the lawyer, paying their salary, depending on the done work,” stated Lilian Darii. There are regulations stipulating how the procedure for doing the financial test should be performed.
He noted that a driver who does not agree with the fine imposed by the patrol officer theoretically can ask for state guaranteed legal aid. However, if he has money for fuel and for maintaining the car, why shouldn’t he have money for legal assistance?
The person can benefit from free legal assistance regardless of the size of incomes if this is suspected of committing an offense for which administrative arrest is applied. In the other cases, the person will have to take the financial test.
Types of guaranteed legal aid
The state guaranteed legal aid for a person can be primary (simple consultations) and qualified (on concrete criminal, civil, contravention and administrative cases). The primary legal assistance is provided by the network of community para-jurists in the localities in which they live and in the neighboring localities and by public lawyers within four local offices of the National Council for State Guaranteed Legal Aid – Chisinau, Bălți, Cahul and Comrat. The qualified legal aid is provided exclusively by licensed lawyers who signed contracts with the local offices.
Remuneration of lawyers who offer state guaranteed legal aid
A sum of about 57.65 million lei was planned in 2020 for remunerating the providers of state guaranteed legal aid. For 2021, this sum was raised by about 11 million in connection with the raise in the lawyers’ pay.
As many as 445 lawyers provided state guaranteed legal aid last year. According to Lilian Darii, this is a sufficient number, but a problem is the non-uninform geographical distribution of these. 67% of them work for the Chisinau local office.
If analyzing the number of cases in which state guaranteed legal aid was provided during the past five years, a constant rise can be seen until 2017, when there was an apogee – 65,300 cases. Afterwards, in 2018-2020, the number of cases declined. In 2020, there were by 8,500 cases fewer than in 2017.
Sabina Isacov, IPN