One of the most important rights you are granted by the United States Constitution is your right to counsel. Unlike other areas of law, criminal law will provide an attorney for you if you are unable to hire one on your own. This is because your rights in a criminal case are extremely important, and the consequences of your case can affect your life, your livelihood, and many other aspects of your life. This is why it is important to be fully aware of your rights, and the consequences of your pleas in a criminal court.
At the very first hearing you will attend after being charged, the arraignment, the court will read you your rights. One of these rights being your right to counsel. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided to you. This would be a public defender.
Public defenders are very experienced and competent representatives, however, they are overwhelmed with cases. At any given point they are handling a large amount of cases before the Judge on the same day as your case. This means they have minimal time to be able to spend preparing for your case and speaking to you beforehand.