Best San Francisco Criminal Defense Lawyers

Last Updated: 05/02/2024

Leading San Francisco criminal defense lawyers to protect your rights when charged with a crime.

The 16 Best San Francisco Criminal Defense Lawyers

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List of the Top 16 San Francisco Criminal Defense Attorneys

The Morales Law Firm
1388 Sutter Street 8th floor, San Francisco, CA 94109, USA

Christopher Morales is a criminal defense lawyer in San Francisco. He specializes in all types of criminal cases, from misdemeanors to murder. The attorney has an excellent reputation among his peers. Morales is known for being a passionate and aggressive trial lawyer.

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Summit Defense
370 Convention Way #316, Redwood City, CA 94063, USA

Summit Defense, a Bay Area criminal defense law firm, offers expert legal representation. With ex-prosecutors and immigration attorneys on staff, they focus on criminal cases. They handle domestic violence, DUIs, assaults, and more. The firm provides free consultations 24/7.

Gasner Criminal Law
Law Chambers Building, 345 Franklin St, San Francisco, CA 94102, United States

Criminal defense attorney Adam Gasner is a certified specialist in criminal law. He has over 20 years of experience defending clients against criminal charges. Gasner works closely with investigators and experts to build the strongest defense. He offers free consultations.

Ginny Walia Law Offices
39275 Mission Blvd suite 101, Fremont, CA 94539, USA

Ginny Walia Law Firm provides experienced legal representation for family law and San Francisco Bay Area criminal defense cases. Their attorneys handle divorce, child custody, DUI defense, and other criminal matters. Call for a free consultation.

Pelta Law
1390 Market St #200, San Francisco, CA 94102, USA

Pelta Law, a San Francisco Criminal Defense Lawyers firm, specializes in DUI and criminal defense. Marc Pelta, the founder, leverages his former prosecutor insights to defend clients. He tackles DUI, drug offenses, domestic violence, and felonies. Known for aggressive, strategic defense, Pelta often takes cases to trial. The firm manages hundreds of cases annually throughout California. Pelta's expertise in criminal law is widely recognized. He focuses on reducing the impact of criminal charges on clients' lives.

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The Law Office of Valery Nechay
345 Franklin St, San Francisco, CA 94102, USA

Valery Nechay Law defends people facing criminal charges in San Francisco. Led by top defense attorney Valery Nechay, we fight to protect your rights and freedom. With passion and care, we handle cases from misdemeanors to felonies. Call for a free consultation.

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The Law Offices of John M. Runfola
100 The Embarcadero Suite 100, San Francisco, CA 94105, United States

The Law Offices of John M. Runfola defends against serious criminal charges in San Francisco. They tackle federal offenses, drug charges, and white-collar and violent crimes. With decades of experience, they've secured hundreds of favorable outcomes nationwide. John Runfola is a California Super Lawyer. The firm fights aggressively for clients' rights.

Hickey & Chung
Pier 9, Suite 100, San Francisco, CA 94111, United States

The Hickey & Chung Law Firm specializes in federal and state courts' criminal defense. We have a successful track record of helping our clients through all phases of the justice system. Our attorneys are skilled and passionate, achieving positive results for our clients time and again.

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The Law Offices of Jonah Chew
1388 Sutter St #805, San Francisco, CA 94109, USA

This Bay Area law firm helps people accused of crimes like DUIs, fraud, and sex offenses. Their experienced lawyers fight for clients in San Francisco courts so they can move on with life. Call their office to schedule a consultation about your case.

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Law Office of Sergio H. Benavides
24301 Southland Dr #212 B, Hayward, CA 94545, USA

The law firm provides criminal defense and immigration legal services. Located in Hayward, CA, it serves the San Francisco Bay Area. Led by attorney Sergio H. Benavides, named a top 100 criminal defense lawyer. The firm has over 15 years of experience in justice and uniting families. Services include DUI defense, domestic violence support, citizenship applications, and deportation help.

Jayne Law Group, P.C
50 Osgood Pl #500, San Francisco, CA 94133, United States

Jayne Law Group is a small criminal defense law firm in the San Francisco Bay Area. They specialize in defending people and businesses accused of crimes. Their lawyers have over 25 years of experience and aim to protect their clients' rights. They build strong defense cases by exploring every detail. Many clients say Jayne Law Group has positively transformed their lives. The firm has received recognition as one of California's best boutique law firms.

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Law Office of Matt Sullivan
1000 Brannan St UNIT 400, San Francisco, CA 94103, United States

San Francisco criminal defense lawyer Matt Sullivan offers free consultations, handling cases in the Bay Area. He aggressively represents the accused against criminal and DUI charges. With experience as a public defender, he has successfully tried many cases before juries. He aims to lift the burden of charges and get the best possible outcome.

The Pakneshan Firm
50 California St #1500, San Francisco, CA 94111, USA

Based in San Francisco, The Pakneshan Firm defends clients facing criminal prosecution and DUI charges in the Bay Area. Pezhman Pakneshan, the firm's founder, is a former Deputy District Attorney with a proven track record of success. With extensive experience in criminal law, the firm strives to get the best possible outcome. The firm offers affordable flat-fee pricing and free consultations.

Hallinan Law Firm
1432 Martin Luther King Jr Way, Oakland, CA 94612, USA

The Hallinan Law Firm specializes in criminal defense. Based in San Francisco, Neil Hallinan, a seasoned trial lawyer, leads the team. With decades of experience, the firm has handled dozens of trials in Northern California. They combine expertise and dedication to offer unparalleled legal representation.

Harris B Taback Law Office
Law Chambers Building, 345 Franklin St, San Francisco, CA 94102, USA

The Law Offices of Harris B. Taback offers criminal defense services. The attorney handles federal and state cases like computer crimes and immigration offenses. He defends clients' rights in complex legal situations.

Law Offices of Naomi Chung
Pier 9, 9 The Embarcadero # 100, San Francisco, CA 94111, USA

The Law Offices of Naomi Chung is a criminal defense firm in the Bay Area. It specializes in white-collar crimes and state & federal offenses. Led by attorney Naomi Chung, the firm achieves favorable results for clients.

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Understanding Criminal Defense: An Overview

When facing criminal charges, it is crucial to understand your rights and options. Hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney is key to building an effective defense. This guide provides an overview of criminal defense and what to expect when navigating the criminal justice system.

What is Criminal Defense?

Criminal defense refers to the advocacy and legal representation for those charged with a crime. A criminal defense lawyer helps understand the charges, builds a strong defense, and negotiates reduced penalties or dismissals. They act as an intermediary between the accused and the prosecutor representing the state.

Defense lawyers handle cases in both state and federal courts . They defend clients against misdemeanors, felonies, and other criminal offenses. Their goal is to achieve the best possible outcome for the accused.

Key Players in a Criminal Case

In addition to the defense attorney and prosecutor, several other key figures play a role in criminal cases:

  • Judge: Presides over trial proceedings and hearings. Determines admissibility of evidence, gives instructions to the jury, and hands down the final sentence upon conviction.
  • Law enforcement: Investigates crimes, gathers evidence, arrests, and testifies during court proceedings.
  • Defendant: The person or party facing criminal charges and accused of committing a crime.
  • Witnesses: Individuals who provide testimony for a case's prosecution or defense side.
  • Jury: Panel of impartial peers who determine guilt or innocence based on evidence and arguments presented in court.

Stages of a Criminal Case

Criminal cases typically move through the following stages:

Arrest and Charging

Police arrest if they have probable cause. The prosecutor then files formal charges. At the initial appearance, bail terms and conditions are often set.

Plea Bargaining

Many cases end through plea bargains between the defense and prosecutor before trial. Defendants plead guilty in exchange for lesser charges or lighter sentencing.

Motions and Hearings

Defense attorneys may file motions challenging evidence or procedures leading up to trial. Evidentiary hearings take place to settle these motions.


The case goes to a bench or jury trial if no plea deal is reached. Both sides present evidence and make arguments before a verdict is reached.


The judge determines penalties and sentencing terms at a separate hearing if convicted. Fines, probation, incarceration, or combinations may apply depending on the case.

The Importance of Hiring a Criminal Defense Lawyer

Facing criminal prosecution can be an intimidating and high-stakes ordeal. Having knowledgeable legal representation is key to developing an effective defense strategy. Here are some top reasons it’s essential to hire a criminal defense attorney:

Deep Knowledge of Criminal Law

The criminal justice framework comprises complex state and federal laws and court rules. Most defendants don’t fully grasp the intricacies involved. A skilled defense lawyer leverages their expertise to protect clients’ rights through every phase.

Ability to Identify Weaknesses

A good attorney can review police reports, analyze evidence, and identify inconsistencies. Spotting legal holes allows charges to be reduced or dismissed pre-trial.

Effective Defense Planning and Execution

Seasoned lawyers craft defense theories, challenge questionable evidence, locate witnesses, and deliver compelling arguments. Their mastery of trial procedures leads to optimal outcomes.

Guidance on Legal Strategy

The lawyer strategically advises whether to plea bargain or take a case trial. If negotiating with prosecutors, they leverage their skills to secure the best deal possible. These high-stakes decisions often dictate the case’s final result.

Sentencing Mitigation

For clients convicted of crimes, skilled counsel makes a compelling case for reduced sentencing. This can involve highlighting mitigating circumstances, providing character references, or appealing judicial discretion.

In summary, a proficient criminal defense lawyer is an invaluable guide through the complex legal maze. Their expertise can make all the difference.

How to Choose the Right Criminal Defense Lawyer

Selecting the right criminal defense attorney is no easy task. Clients face heavy fines, probation terms, and even years behind bars. Building an air-tight case with the best lawyer improves outcomes. Use these tips when evaluating attorneys:

Verify Qualifications and Licensing

Only hire practicing lawyers with a Juris Doctorate (J.D.) from an accredited law school. Confirm they hold a valid state license to practice law. Court appointments and Marine Corps training indicate distinguished criminal attorneys.

Assess Relevant Expertise

Seeking counsel well-versed in state or federal criminal law is paramount. Those certified as specialists in criminal trial or defense law prove exemplary qualifications. High Super Lawyer and AV Preeminent attorney ratings also signify expertise.

Examine Track Record and Case History

The ideal attorney has a proven history of favorable verdicts in comparable criminal cases. Request specific case examples and personal references from past clients. High acquittal and dismissal rates reflect positively.

Gauge Trial Ability and Style

Understand how adept they are in the courtroom. Do they excel at cross-examining, delivering opening/closing arguments, persuading judges and juries? Also, assess their manner and how clients describe their approach.

Common Types of Criminal Cases and Defense Strategies

Criminal cases span a broad spectrum, from non-violent misdemeanors to major felonies. Common charges include:

Drug Charges

Drug cases range from possession to trafficking and distribution felonies. The defense often involves questioning the legitimacy of searches or drug testing accuracy. Attorneys also challenge witnesses’ credibility and leverage sentencing options.

DUI Cases

For driving under the influence, defenses dispute blood alcohol content readings and sobriety test protocols. Lawyers may argue clients weren’t driving the vehicle when arrested. Or challenge the technical calibrating processes of breathalyzers.

White Collar Crimes

Tax evasion, embezzlement, money laundering, and fraud fall under white-collar categories. Attorneys dispute paper trails or challenge witnesses’ accounts to undermine prosecution arguments.

Sex Crimes

Accused sex offenders often claim sexual acts were consensual. Lawyers highlight contradictory statements, credibility issues with witnesses/victims, and evidentiary timelines. Reduced sentencing remains the likely goal.

In all cases, lawyers exploit every available angle and argument when mounting a vigorous defense.

The Impact of Criminal Convictions and How to Fight Them

The implications of having a permanent criminal record extend far beyond fines and jail time served. Ongoing stigma and restrictions present marked barriers moving forward. Skilled lawyers aim to avoid undeserved convictions and mitigate penalties.

Long-Term Effects of Criminal Convictions

Beyond reputational damage, those with felony or misdemeanor convictions face:

  • Lost voting and gun ownership rights
  • Barriers accessing jobs, housing, loans
  • Restricted international travel
  • Family law and child custody limitations
  • Social stigma and community exclusion

How Criminal Defense Lawyers Fight Convictions

To help clients avoid unfair, inaccurate convictions, lawyers leverage:

  • Case dismissal motions highlighting procedural technicalities
  • Plea deals to negotiate dropped or reduced charges
  • Sentencing reductions through circumstance mitigation
  • Post-conviction relief and record expungement processes
  • Appeals arguments focused on legal/judicial errors

Through each phase, defense counsel fights to protect defendants’ records, rights, and freedoms for life beyond a case. Avoiding unjust outcomes remains the top priority.

Skilled criminal defense lawyers understand all case complexities and the consequences at stake. Their expertise can mean the difference between smooth societal reintegration or blocked opportunities.