Dallas County established a Public Defender's Office in 1983 to give judges an alternative to the established ad hoc appointment system for indigent persons charged with criminal and juvenile offenses. Since its inception, the office has developed into a multifaceted office, representing individuals in the criminal, juvenile and family courts.

The main office is housed in the Frank Crowley Courts Building. It is comprised of felony, capital defense, misdemeanor and mental health attorneys who represent individuals accused of committing a crime. The main office also houses the appellate and DNA divisions, which handle legal matters that arise post-conviction.

The Henry Wade Juvenile Justice Center houses the juvenile division. The attorneys in this division represent juveniles accused of delinquent conduct and parents involved in child custody CPS cases.

The George Allen Courts Building houses the family division. These attorneys represent children in child custody cases and respondents in child support cases.

In all cases, the individuals represented by the Public Defender’s Office have been found “indigent” by the court. A defendant is deemed indigent when he/she does not have sufficient income to afford an attorney for legal representation. If the court finds a defendant is indigent, the court must appoint a public defender or contract attorney to represent him/her. Indigence is determined solely by the court in which the case is assigned.