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5 - What is the role of a public defender?

A public defender is also an agent of the state.  They have gone to law school and are attorneys; however, they are employed by the government and are responsible for defending anyone who has been charged with a criminal offense and qualifies for a public defender.  To qualify for a public defender, a criminal defendant must be declared indigent by the court.  This means that the court must find that the defendant cannot afford to retain private counsel.  As a defendant, you do not get to choose your public defender nor do you have any say in his or her level of expertise in handling your specific charges.  Unlike the prosecutor who is generally assigned to handle a specific type of case, most public defenders do not specialize in a specific area of criminal defense, which means they may lack the same expertise as the prosecutor, who does specialize.

FAQ - Sex Crime Charges in Arizona