The best time to hire a criminal defense lawyer is as soon as you know you have criminal charges against you.  Often times you are notified that you may be facing charges before they are actually filed.  Many times, law enforcement officers will try to talk to you about your case before they even have an arrest or search warrant. At that point in your case, however, it is important to only speak to officers when your lawyer is present. Your lawyer should know how to communicate properly with officers and understand your rights so that you are being represented correctly. You want a lawyer that is aggressive when it comes to fighting for you.  If you do not have the benefit of an early warning and you are arrested, it is even more important that you hire a criminal defense attorney immediately.  Even before you attempt to post bail, your criminal lawyer can be helpful. Your lawyer will be able to find out more information about your case and assess your options. In some instances, your lawyer may even be able to get your bail lowered or entirely dropped.  If you decide to use a public defender instead of a private criminal defense lawyer, you usually will not be able to speak with the public defender until your first court date, which could be weeks after you are arrested. This leaves you with much less time to discuss your both case and your options.