You want a lawyer who specializes in Criminal Defense.
Although most lawyers can take a case from scratch and do the necessary research, you are far better off if your lawyer is already well versed your area of practice, here Criminal Law. You do not want to hire the family friend who is a Family Law practitioner. A generalist probably knows a little about a lot of different areas, but wouldn't you prefer your attorney to be focussed? If you are charged with Drunk Driving (OUI/DWI/DWI) you will want a Criminal Defense, Drunk Driving lawyer since this has almost evolved to its into own area of law over the last several years.
How to find that specialist is not so difficult. Most lawyers advertise in particular sections of the phone book or display their areas of expertise in their online ads or on their web sites. If you search online, type in the offense you are charged with. If you have several, type in the most important charge, along with the location of the court you are in and then "Defense lawyer". See the examples below.
Make sure your lawyer is familiar with the court where you are charged.
Home field advantage is important with Criminal Defense, like most areas of law. If possible, you want a lawyer who knows the judge(s) that you may be in front of and their idiosyncracies, the Assistant District Attorney(s) that will prosecute your case and if possible, the clerks and court officers as well. Hopefully your attorney has a solid reputation for success in the court you are in and with the parties involved. Opitimally, you want someone who can get your case moved along, that can negotiate issues of discovery and possibly disposition with the Assistant District Attorney and knows what type of issues the judge that you are in front of particularly likes or dislikes. You can learn this from speaking with the attorney during the consultation. It is not absolutely necessary that he has been in that court before, but at least he should know where to get this important information.
How to search, specificly.
Lets say you are charged with Assault and Battery and you are to appear in the Worcester District Court. Type into your web browser, "Assault & Battery (or "A&B") Worcester Attorney". If you are charged with Operating Under the Influence and must appear in the Clinton Court, you should type "OUI/DUI Clinton lawyer." Now lets assume you find several. Where do you go from there?
Once you get to the lawyer's site, look for an internal web page that addresses your charge. Check to see if that attorney has case summaries that are similar to yours. See if the lawyer has testimonials from previous clients. What did they have to say about him or her?
You can also go to sites like Martidale Hubbell and Avvo where they list attorneys and provide ratings and rankings. These sites may also have client testimonials if the lawyer's own web site does not.
Additional resources provided by the author
These are all really substitutes for good old fashioned word of mouth. It is certainly nice to be able to ask a friend who they used and how they liked their attorney. But what if they didn't like their lawyer or you don't feel comfortable speaking about your situation with your friends. These are alternative ways to get the same type of information that your friends may provide. Once you get a lawyer who looks good call and talk to him or her. Make sure you feel comfortable with their advice and knowledge. Don't waste too much time on interviewing numerous attorneys. Once you get one that you feel comfortable with, make an appointment and meet. You want to get a lawyer on board as soon as possible. The sooner they can file their appearance the sooner they can get going on your case.