First Defense Legal Aid mobilizes lawyers and overpoliced community members to fill gaps in public defense

and create, protect, and engage replicable alternatives to the criminal system starting with its entry points.

What the community has to say…

I got stopped by my house and invoked my rights. I said I do not consent to searches. They searched me anyways and found a mountain of First Defense cards. They let me go.

Miguel Rodriguez
Artist Educator and Restorative Justice

I’m a social worker and this Hotline has been crucial for myself and my mentees. First Defense lawyers taught me that the only way to out think police, because you can’t out talk them, is to say “I want my lawyer” and wait until First Defense gets there.

Max Cerda
Social Worker

Hotline lawyers, and law students in some instances, are willing to get up in the middle of the night and go to police stations to help people assert their rights. It’s really about equality for People of Color and poor people.

Randolph Stone
Founder and Clinical Professor, University of Chicago Law School

I think any attorney, anyone who’s been through law school would know how important early access to counsel in a criminal case is. That only 302 people had a lawyer go to the police station in a year is pretty shocking.

Gregory A. McConnell
Probono Counsel, Winston & Strawn LLP


0% of people have the constitutional right to an attorney while in police custody.
0% of Mirandized arrestees waive their Miranda rights after being arrested.
$0M in savings annually if everyone in Cook County Jail had access to an attorney within 24h of arrest.

FDLA now connects you with community resources to avoid arrest and public defenders in the first 48 hours of arrest. We are open 24/7/365!

* Actual reported number of arrestees who had a lawyer present while in Chicago police custody in 2018 is 1.67%.