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What is the typical function of a public defender office?

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Quick Answer

The office of a public defender is charged with protecting the rights of individuals in criminal and related matters, explains the State of Hawaii Office of the Public Defender. This includes providing effective legal counsel to any indigent person who is charged with a criminal offense punishable by imprisonment or involuntary confinement in a psychiatric institution. The public defender's office also provides counsel to indigent people facing involuntary outpatient treatment.

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Public defenders also provide counsel to children under the age of 18 who are charged with juvenile delinquency or are the subject of state wardship proceedings, according to the Law Office of the Los Angeles County Public Defender. They also represent people who are facing conservatorship proceedings due to disability and people who are confined to mental health facilities against their will. Public defenders also are available to patients whose right to refuse medical treatment is being challenged in court.

In Los Angeles County, the public defender's office provides a specialized team of attorneys who represent people who were charged with crimes based mainly on DNA evidence, states the Los Angeles Office of the Public Defender. These attorneys also work with the Innocence Project, representing convicted felons who could be exonerated by DNA evidence. Additionally, the office's Public Integrity Assurance Section investigates and litigates wrongful convictions that occurred as the result of police misconduct.

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