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A public defender is a lawyer and has been licensed and trained to act as such just like any other attorney.
The role of public defender “is meant to ensure that no defendant is denied their right to an attorney, which is provided under the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution,” according to Justia.com.
A person does not typically get to choose who his or her public defender will be, but can use public defender services regardless of the level of the crime.
Someone who’s been charged with a crime can also elect to hire a defense attorney on his or her own.
Famously, Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman used the services of a federal public defender for a portion of his 2017 drug trafficking case.
Regardless of whether a person chooses to enlist the services of a criminal defense attorney or a public defender, he or she is can change attorneys at virtually any time, with the permission of the judge.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.