Criminal Defense Clinic
What We Do
The Criminal Defense Clinic aims to provide high-quality legal service to community members who cannot afford to hire an attorney to represent them in misdemeanor criminal court proceedings or to provide legal advice about expungements and other criminal record relief. Upper-level law students receive in-depth training and a supportive environment so they can work under the supervision of faculty members to provide the representation, advice, and respect that all of their clients deserve.
After receiving a full semester of intensive training on North Carolina’s criminal procedure and defense practice, students in this Clinic have the opportunity to handle all aspects of misdemeanor criminal representation. Under the supervision of experienced criminal defense attorneys, students interview and counsel their clients, conduct pretrial investigations, research and prepare for any necessary motions, negotiate with opposing counsel, prepare for trials, and handle all court appearances for their assigned cases. Supervising attorneys are available at all times to provide ideas and guidance as needed.
Through the work they perform in this Clinic, students learn to process information quickly, to develop strong legal and factual arguments, to think strategically about their cases, to manage relationships with clients and court personnel, and to present themselves confidently and competently in court. At the same time, students in this Clinic are reminded daily of the importance of dedicated, knowledgeable, and professional counsel in furthering the cause of justice for those who have been accused of a crime.
For more details about this Clinic as a credit-earning academic course, current students should access the Clinical Legal Education Program’s MyLaw page.
Potential Clients and Community Partners
Seeking representation for a misdemeanor case? The majority of our cases are referred from the Durham County Public Defender’s Office. On the first court date, if a judge approves a request for a public defender, the Durham Public Defender’s Office may assign the Clinic to handle the case. On a limited basis, the Clinic will accept Durham cases where a judge has determined that an individual does not qualify for a court-appointed attorney because the person does not face any jail time. For those who wish to have Clinic representation in that situation, they must complete the financial eligibility form for misdemeanors (click here or the button above) and submit it for consideration.
Seeking legal advice for an expungement or criminal record relief? In partnership with the Durham Expunction and Restoration Program (DEAR), the Durham office of Legal Aid of North Carolina, Inc., and other agencies, the Criminal Defense Clinic accepts referrals for legal assistance to be provided at an annual Expungement Advice Clinic in the spring. For those who need legal assistance of this nature, complete the financial eligibility form for expungement advice (click here or the button above). If financial criteria are met, the person will receive an appointment to receive legal advice on the date of the Expungement Advice Clinic.
Seeking a trained law student intern? After receiving intensive training in the fall, students enrolled in the Criminal Defense Clinic may complete their spring course requirements by working as externs in any public defender office. Public defender offices who are in need of interns for any spring semester should contact the Clinic’s supervising attorney to ensure that trained Clinic students are notified of the work opportunity.
Dionne R. Gonder-Stanley, Director of Criminal Defense Clinic and Competitions Coordinator