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Thank you for your patience.Unfortunately, they can. The reality is that the public defender's office is generally overworked with far more people requesting services than available lawyers, resulting in huge caseloads. It's meant for people who are indigent. Therefore, if there is an appearance that a person has money and ability to have outside counsel, yes, a judge can deny a public defender. However, if he continues to make his court appearances and continues to assert that he cannot afford an attorney, eventually the judge will have him submit a new application to the public defenders' office.
Under the Supreme Court case Gideon v. Wainright, a person has the right to be represented in criminal proceedings. If the judge won't appoint an attorney at the next hearing date, your son needs to tell him you have a Constitutional right to an attorney and that he cannot afford one. He can inform the court that he has lost his job and has no money. The judge has the right to make him pay something towards the appointment to the court (there's usually a fee for using a public defender though it's much less than a private lawyer).
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