During my years as a felony prosecutor and police officer, I was asked by friends and acquintances, who I would recommend for various criminal offenses they were charged with, and whether they needed an attorney at all. The answer to the latter question was alwasy YES! However, who they should select as their attorney was typically answered by asking two simple questions: Where are you charged? What are you charged with?
1st - Where are you charged? The right attorney for anyone should have knowledge of the Courts in the jurisdiction in which you are charged. These attorneys are often in front of the Judges in this County on a regular basis, and may have knowledge of what the Judge has done in similar situations. They also know the local rules or nuances of a particular Judge or Court. If they are not familiar of the Court, you want to make sure they have relationships with other attorneys in that area so that they can gain this necessary knowledge.
2nd - What are you charged with? All attorneys are presumed to have the knowledge to represent you right out of lawschool. However, there is no substitute for experience. An attorney who only handles misdemeanor DUIs may not be the best choice if you are charged with a serious felony, and the oppositve applies too. One would hope if you needed open heart surgery you wouldn't choose the least experienced cardiologist because he was the cheapest. The same goes for choosing an attorney when you are fighting for your freedom.
To expand on why an attorney is, in my opinion, necessary in all criminal case, the simple answer is because they will make sure your constitutional rights will be protected. Even before the case starts, crucial information can be obtained that may have a huge impact on your case. During my years as a felony prosecutor, many cases were resolved with the assistance of defense counsel before an indictment from the grand jury was even issued. The reason is because that person under investigation retained an attorney who started working immediately for them. Whether they provided exculpatory evidence to the prosecutor's office to prevent a meritless felony charge, or worked a plea agreement prior to indictment to a reduced charge, having all the information at the forefront makes a tremendous difference. Attorneys at this stage also provide guidance to the accused on what they can expect to occur procedurally.
Many Americans have died to protect our Constitutional Rights. Not protecting them now with the help of an attorney could cost you your freedom.