Good morning, thank you for your question. I'm presuming they charged your son with a misdemeanor. Yes, in order to get a public defender, he would have to go to the arraingment and plead not guilty. Normally at that point, the court will ask what their intentions are with respect to getting a lawyer, and your son can mention that he would like to have a public defender. The court will then continue the case to a further date. There will be numerous arraignments going on, so you're son will see the process beforehand.
Though your son could plead guilty at the arraignment and simply allow the judge the sentence him, it's not advise. Even though he may have confessed to the police, it is still a good idea to have him speak with a lawyer. He may have defenses available to him, or at the very least, his attorney may be able to negotiate a plea with the prosecutor instead of "rolling the dice" with the judge.
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