A public defender is an attorney who is paid by the government to defend a person who cannot afford to hire an attorney in a criminal case. If a person is charged with a criminal offense, he or she has the right to legal representation. Public defenders are appointed by the court clerk's office. Charges for which the government appoints a public defender include serious misdemeanors or felonies such as DUIs or DWIs, thefts, assaults, drug charges, and any other serious offense for which the charged individual might receive a significant sentence of incarceration.
Public defenders provide representation during a criminal arraignment, bail hearings and other pretrial court appearances, trials and post-conviction appeals. This type of attorney also helps a criminal defendant negotiate an appropriate plea agreement if that defendant wishes to accept responsibility and avoid trial.