Criminal Defense for Activists

If you are facing criminal charges in Cook County (including Chicago) as a result of your political activity, including participating in demonstrations or direct actions, please call the NLG Criminal Defense Coordinator at 773-309-1198 and leave a message with your name, phone number, charges, and your next court date.


Explanation of Criminal Defense Assistance for Activists


The National Lawyers Guild of Chicago’s Mass Defense Committee is an all-volunteer network of legal workers, law students, and lawyers committed to providing effective legal support for progressive protest movements and demonstrators. Part of this support involves providing free or discounted political criminal defense for activists charged with crimes as a result of their activism.

Though we strive to provide free criminal defense representation for all individuals arrested at protests in Chicago, our capacity is limited. As a result, we are not always able to provide free attorneys for everyone. In order to offer transparency into the process we use for providing criminal defense assistance, we have explained it below.

People facing criminal charges as a result of their political activity, including participating in demonstrations or direct actions, should call the NLG Criminal Defense Coordinator at 773-309-1198 and leave a message with their name, phone number, charge(s), and date of next court appearance.

Messages left through this number are checked regularly and are confidential and privileged. Nevertheless, sensitive information relating to your case should not be left on this voicemail.

Once a message is received, the criminal defense coordinator will follow up with the person arrested to clarify whether or not they can afford to pay a reduced rate for criminal defense help. The reduced fee is approximately $300 for misdemeanors. Reduced rates for felony cases will be determined individually.1

People who are unable to pay can simply say that they are unable to pay. All requests for assistance are forwarded to a list of volunteer criminal defense attorneys. If an attorney is able to assist the person charged for free or for reduced cost, the person will be connected to the volunteer attorney.


**Please note that the above phone number is not staffed 24 hours a day and is not a reliable number to call immediately after being arrested, while you are in a police department lock-up. In that situation in the City of Chicago, you can always call First Defense Legal Aid’s Police Custody Hotline at 1-800-LAWREP4.**


1 Asking for greatly reduced payments from those who are able to pay something contributes to our overall capacity to provide criminal defense assistance, as many volunteer attorneys work in solo or small firm practice settings and have limited a ability to take cases completely free of charge.


NLG Chicago Emergency Response Hotline | 312-913-0039

In response to the September 2010 FBI raids and grand jury subpoenas, and in its continuing effort to defend the right to dissent, the National Lawyers Guild of Chicago is offering several resources for activists.

We have established a Chicago-based NLG emergency response hotline.  The NLG Hotline helps match activists who have been contacted by the FBI with NLG defense attorneys in Chicago who have experience dealing with similar cases.

NLG Chicago Hotline: 312-913-0039

If you know of people who were visited by the FBI, or if you know about FBI visits to neighbors, employers or others, related to this investigation, please contact the NLG Hotline immediately at 312-913-0039.

National NLG Green Scare Hotline

Our “Greenscare Hotline” was created several years ago as a first line of defense for environmental and animal rights activists who have been contacted by the FBI.  Callers are referred to Guild attorneys in their geographic area whose assistance ranges from telephone consultations to direct representation.  The hotline is: 888-NLG-ECOL.

Know Your Rights Resources

For resources and information about your rights and how to assert them, click here.

Legal Observers

Lastly, as always, the NLG Chicago Chapter provides legal observers to monitor police activity and potential infringement of First Amendment rights at local rallies, demonstrations, and direct actions.  To request legal observers, please email with information about your planned action.  For more information about our Legal Observer Program and how to request legal observers, click here.