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If you’ve been charged with a crime – regardless of its severity – it’s always a good idea to get in touch with a criminal defense lawyer. While self-representation is possible in court, it’s usually not a good idea, even for minor misdemeanors.

But still, before you go about hiring a criminal defense attorney there are a few things you need to consider. Here are a few of the most important things to keep in mind.

Timeliness
The sooner you reach out to attorneys after being charged with a crime, the better. Your first court date might not be for a little while, but taking that time to work through your case with a reputable lawyer can make all the difference when it actually comes time to appear in court and speak your piece.

In addition, an attorney may open your eyes to ways in which you can improve upon your case before the court date. For example, a DUI attorney may suggest going through Alcoholics Anonymous or another treatment program before appearing in court. Drunk driving, and subsequent accidents, cost the U.S. around $199 billion annually, according to MADD. Anything you can do to prevent that from happening in the future is extremely important to your case.

Public Defenders
Public defenders pose a variety of pros and cons. First and foremost, public defenders are typically assigned to people who can’t afford to hire a private attorney. So while it might not be an ideal fit, a person will still have legal representation after being charged with a crime. On the flip side, public defenders are assigned to a wide variety of cases at a single time. That means that in addition to being extremely busy, a public defender might not be specialized in a field of law that benefits your case specifically.

Whether you need a drug lawyer or a domestic violence lawyer, it’s important to consider these two things during your search. Would a public defender work to your advantage? Will there be enough time to find a lawyer before your first court date? These are questions that must be answered before you hire an attorney.