Updated: Sep 20, 2017
The Public Defenders are attorneys who can represent people who cannot afford to hire an attorney. They can represent you in any case that involves criminal charges that may result in you going to jail, provided you qualify financially. They CANNOT represent you on criminal violations, traffic violations, in administrative license revocation proceedings or in civil TRO hearings.
If you think you can afford an attorney, I suggest meeting with a few attorneys for consultations. Just because you are paying for an attorney does not automatically mean you will get better representation than you would with a public defender. If you don't think you can afford a good private attorney, meet with the public defender and see what they can do for you. If you don't feel comfortable with the public defender assigned to your case, you can always hire a private attorney later.
The Office of the Public Defender for Hawaii can be found on the web at http://publicdefender.hawaii.gov.