Criminal charges have many layers to them. There are plenty of court dates and preliminary hearings that need to be dealt with, let alone the paperwork and logistical work that needs to be done to ensure the case is handled properly. Just on these two factors alone, it is crucial for someone accused of a crime to have adequate and experienced legal representation.
But there are obviously many more reasons that a criminal defense attorney is important. Criminal cases are just too complex to go into without counsel. An attorney could help you with your bail, an unfortunately integral part of the criminal justice process.
The bail system has come under fire, and rightfully so, in recent years. Bail basically targets poorer people, making it difficult for them to pay to get out of jail while they await trial. This forces some people to stay in jail -- a terrifying prospect -- while also forcing others to plead guilty to the charges against them, even if they aren't really guilty, just to avoid jail time or a protracted legal case.
That's not just unfair, it's inefficient. We're producing criminals. We're forcing people to choose a criminal history instead of going through the process properly.
Though it's not happening here in Chicago, the city of New York is trying out a program that will effectively do away with bail. The program will give judges the ability to remove bail as an option for those accused of minor crimes, instead entering them in a program that monitors them with text message alerts, drug and behavior therapy and daily check-ins. Maybe this program to lead something on a national scale.
Source: Slate, "NYC Plan Will End Bail for Thousands of Low-Level Offenders," Anna Diamond, July 8, 2015