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. Whether or not you believe you have been wrongfully accused, an attorney will fight for your legal and constitutional rights and monitor the proceedings for legality and fairness. The right to counsel in a 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.