Thank you for your question.
What makes a "good" criminal defense lawyer (or any lawyer) for that matter, is obviously subjective. One person may define that term differently from someone else. While site rules prohibit me from recommending a specific lawyer or law firm, I do have some suggestions how your friend may be able to find a lawyer.
I would first suggest that he contact a location bar association lawyer referral service. Here
is a list of NJ County Bar Associations that can refer qualified lawyers. He should contact the one in the county (or close to the county, if there isn't one in the county) where he was charged.
Also, although you may not trust online directories, I would suggest you at least look at sites like www.avvo.com and www.lawyers.com, which have lawyer reviews from both other lawyers and former clients, so you can see what people have said. I also like www.martindale.com, which allows to search by type of law and location and seek out reviews by peer review, client review, or both. If nothing else, they may give you an idea of who your friend may want to rule out.
Ultimately, though, the best way for your friend to find a lawyer is to meet with several of them (most will charge no fee or only a low cost fee) and talk to them. Things that are important that your friend may want to know:
How long has the lawyer been practicing?
How long in criminal defense?
Do they practice exclusively in criminal defense, or do they also do other areas of law? (I wouldn't necessarily rule out a lawyer who handles other types of law, but criminal defense should be the bulk of their practice).
Have they handled any sex crimes cases before? How many? (I would suggest someone with experience in sex crimes as they can be difficult cases).
What were the results of those cases?
Are they willing to go to trial? Some criminal lawyers only want to plead out cases, but if your friend is wanting to have a trial, they'll need someone who has had felony trial experience before and isn't afraid to try the case.
It's a big decision, and your friend has to go with the person whom his gut says they can trust -and I know that's easier said than done when this person potentially means the difference between freedom and a prison sentence. I wish I could tell you that there was some way to know for sure "this is the one", but there's not. The lawyer who is good for your friend is a) the one who has been in practice and has experience handling these types of cases and isn't afraid to defend them and b)the one that he feels comfortable with. If you need any portion of my answer clarified or need further information, please reply back to me by using the reply/continue the conversation button, and I will be happy to assist you further.