It is always in your best interest to consult a criminal defense lawyer as early as possible if you suspect you will be facing the criminal justice system. Even if you are innocent, an experienced criminal defense attorney will fight for your legal and constitutional rights and monitor the proceedings for legality and fairness.  Federal court can be difficult to navigate and the right federal criminal defense attorney will use her expertise to develop a strong defense strategy.  The right to counsel in a federal criminal case does not attach until judicial proceedings begin (usually when you are formally charged with a crime by indictment), but a privately retained lawyer can begin representing you before judicial proceedings commence.