In order to determine if a person can or cannot afford his or her own legal representation, the Legal Aid Board uses the "means test". The main factor in the test is the income of the applicant. If his or her income exceeds the laid down requirements, he or she does not qualify for legal aid. The means test also considers both movable (cash and money-related assets) and immovable property. If the total of these assets is sufficiently large to cover the expected legal costs, legal aid will be refused even if the applicant has little or no income. An applicant for legal aid must also show that he or she is a natural person and not a juristic person such as a company.
To determine if a person qualifies for legal aid in civil matters, the joint income and assets of an applicant and his or her spouse are taken into account.
The Legal Aid Board does not provide legal aid for drunken driving, driving under the influence of alcohol, and/or drugs and dealing in liquor without a licence. The Legal Aid Board gives priority and provides legal aid for most civil matters.
However, it does not provide legal aid for the following civil matters:
Arbitration, mediation, conciliation or any other form of dispute resolution:
The Legal Aid Board generally does not provide legal aid for labour matters.
In criminal cases, the Legal Aid Board first determines that an accused legal aid applicant is unable to afford the cost of his or her legal representation. If it is satisfied that the accused person cannot afford legal representation, the Legal Aid Board then determines if the accused would, if convicted, probably receive a prison sentence of which the unsuspended portion would be more than three months, without the option of a fine, or if given the option of a fine, such a fine would remain unpaid for two weeks after the imposition of the fine. If it is convinced that the accused person will receive a prison sentence, then it will provide legal aid. Close corporations and private companies do not qualify for legal aid but companies registered in terms of Section 21 of the Companies Act of 1973 may qualify if they meet certain criteria.