More people could end up in prison because of federal budget cuts to Legal Aid, a top West Australian lawyer says.
The government revealed in last week's budget that it had cut $15 million from Legal Aid in 2014/15.
WA Lawyer's Association president Linda Black said the cuts meant more people would face court without proper legal representation, with potentially dire consequences.
Legal Aid had already stopped offering assistance in nearly all matters in the Perth Magistrates Court, which increasingly handles serious cases such as dangerous driving causing death.
"Legal Aid can't provide funding unless there is a significant prospect of imprisonment and even then, it's not necessarily available," Ms Black told AAP.
"The danger of all that is you miss out on one of the critical checks and balances of the system."
Ms Black said the cuts were unfair to mentally ill people who would have to rely on private law firms agreeing to represent them without charge or assistance from community legal centres, which have also had their funding cut.
"It's a terrible situation which is going to become more terrible in the next year or two."
Ms Black said mandatory sentencing laws in Western Australia would compound the effect of the cuts.