What is a Public Defender?

A Public Defender is a lawyer appointed by the court to represent indigent persons charged with criminal offenses and facing involuntary commitment proceedings.

Are Public Defenders real lawyers?

Yes. All Public Defenders are licensed attorneys who have completed law school and are sworn members of the Hawaiʻi State Bar. Many Public Defenders have been recognized as some of the best criminal defense attorneys in the State of Hawaiʻi.

Where is your office?

The Office of the Public Defender maintains local offices throughout the State of Hawaiʻi. To locate the Office nearest to you, click on Branches located at the top of the home page.

If I am in Jail, how do I contact the Public Defender Department?

A Deputy Public Defender will contact you to complete the application process.

How can a client help his/her case?

Do not speak to anyone, including the police, about your case except your attorney.
Keep track of your court dates and times.
Come to court 15 minutes prior to your hearing (unless you are instructed otherwise by your attorney).
Stay in touch with the attorney assigned to your case. If your telephone number or address changes be sure to update your attorney.
Bring all case related documents to court and office appointments.
Dress to impress when going to Court – like you are going to church.

What Makes Public Defender Representation So Good?

Highly Qualified.

Deputy Public Defender are chosen from a field of attorneys who apply. Only the best candidates are accepted to join the Public Defender team. Also, unlike most other lawyers, Public Defender lawyers work only in the criminal law field. Thus, Deputy Public Defenders are in court and advocating for clients more than most attorneys.

Dedicated to Clients.

Even though public defender lawyers are paid by the government, their duty of loyalty is with each individual client. Deputy Public Defenders take an ethical pledge to assert the constitutional rights of all clients and to work zealously to defend every client.

Excellent Resources.

Deputy Public Defenders work as a team on cases. Most clients have the benefit of many attorneys assisting with their defense. Deputy Public Defenders have access to legal research, investigators and a support staff to assist them in the preparation of their cases.

Trained and Supervised.

Every Deputy Public Defender attends annual trainings to improve his or her trial and courtroom skills. All Deputy Public Defenders attend regular trainings on criminal law topics. Including; speedy trial rights, grand jury rights, trial preparation, jury selection, immigration consequences and the rules of evidence. Additionally, every Deputy Public Defender has a direct supervisor who trains and monitors progress on their cases.

Dedicated to Public Service.

Attorneys hired by the Office of the Public Defender have a demonstrated dedication to public service. Although most attorneys in the office could make more money in the private sector, they choose to work for people in the community who need and deserve to have strong and competent advocates in court.

What happens after I have been assigned to a lawyer?

You must remain in contact with your Deputy Public Defender regularly and be present at all court appearances. (It is your responsibility to make sure that the Office of the Public Defender always has up-to-date contact information for you.) The assigned lawyer will request all copies of tangible items that the State intends to introduce at trial and work with you to prepare your legal defense in the matter.

Should I discuss my case with anyone other than my assigned lawyer or a representative from the Office of the Public Defender?

No. It is very important that you do not talk to anyone about your case without your assigned lawyer being present or without him/her giving you permission to do so. It is your responsibility to consult your Deputy Public Defender before you talk to anyone – you do not want to make a mistake that hurts your case!

If I am arrested, should I talk to the police?

If you are arrested, you should request to speak to a lawyer and you should obtain advice from a lawyer before answering police questions. If you ask to speak to a lawyer, a lawyer will be provided for you – wait and speak to that lawyer before answering questions.

I forgot my court date. How do I find out when it is?

You can find out your court date by contacting your attorney, bonding company, the courthouse, or by researching it through https://www.courts.state.hi.us/legal_references/records/jims_system_availability.html.

How do I get my sentence modified?

Sometimes it is possible to have a sentence modified. If you were represented by a Public Defender for the conviction in question and you are curious about whether a modification of your sentence is possible, contact your lawyer or the Office of the Public Defender for assistance.

How would I contact the office if I am unable to post bail or obtain a release?

A Public Defender will contact you.