Office of Public Defender
The Office of the Public Defender was established pursuant to Section 802-B, Hawai`i Revised Statutes, implementing Federal and State constitutional mandates that any indigent person charged with a criminal offense or threatened with the loss of liberty shall be provided with the assistance of legal counsel. The Office of the Public Defender became operational on February 2, 1970 and has been administratively attached to the Department of Budget and Finance since 1980.
The Defender Council serves as the governing body of the Office of the Public Defender. Council members are appointed by the Governor with at least one member appointed from each county of the State. The State Public Defender is appointed by the Defender Council.
The Office of the Public Defender is the largest criminal defense organization in the State of Hawai`i.
STATEMENT OF PURPOSE
The purpose of the Office of the Public Defender is to safeguard individual rights in all criminal and related matters, from arrest or threat of confinement through all stages of the criminal proceedings including appeal and parole board matters, if any, consistent with applicable laws, court rules, and rules of professional responsibility. Pursuant to this objective, the primary function of the Office of the Public Defender is to provide the assistance of effective counsel in all criminal and related proceedings.
Under § 802-1, Hawai`i Revised Statutes:
[a]ny indigent person who is (1) arrested for, charged with or convicted of an offense or offenses punishable by confinement in jail or prison or for which such person may be or is subject to the provisions of Chapter 571; or (2) threatened by confinement, against the indigent person’s will, in any psychiatric or other mental institution or facility; or (3) the subject of a petition for involuntary outpatient treatment under Chapter 334 shall be entitled to be represented by a public defender. If, however, conflicting interests exist, or if the interests of justice require, the court may appoint other counsel.