Thanks to thousands of police drama episodes and murder mysteries, most people are familiar with the Miranda rights which have to be read to anyone that gets arrested. This includes the line, “If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you.”
This does not mean that everyone arrested gets a free lawyer or public defender. You’re not the one who decides if you can afford a lawyer or not. The presiding judge at your hearing does. When at the hearing, the judge will ask you all about your finances, including your income, your assets and your debts. Do not lie in order to get a public defender. If you are caught lying, the penalties can be severe. If the judge does agree that you cannot afford an attorney, you will be classified as having hardship or indigence. You then become an indigent defendant.