I was born in San Bernardino County, and raised in Riverside County. I have lived or worked in numerous cities throughout the Inland Empire in my lifetime, including San Bernardino, Colton, Rialto, Fontana, Rancho Cucamonga, Redlands, Big Bear, Twin Peaks, Victorville, Palm Springs, Cathedral City, Palm Desert, Rancho Mirage, and Indio. I grew up in a very “blue collar” family, and I put myself through college and law school working in a variety of “blue collar” jobs starting at age 13. This personal experience and connection with my the local communities gives me an edge in preparing your case and speaking to juries on your behalf. I know the local geography very well, as well as the different types of people that inhabit them.
While in high school, I competed successfully in the Riverside County Mock Trial Competition as an attorney, and upon graduation, I received the Law League of the Desert Scholarship. I knew that I wanted to practice criminal law from a very early age, and so, I geared my college education towards this end as much as I could.
After receiving my bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of California, San Diego in 1994, I attended law school at the prestigious University of San Diego. While I was attending USD law, I was able to "try out" both sides of the criminal law. I completed three different internships while I was still at USD. I was a law clerk at the Riverside County District Attorney's Office, the San Diego Public Defender's Office, and the San Diego Alternate Public Defender's Office for about three months each.
Upon graduating from USD school of law in 1997, I sat for and passed the California State Bar Exam on my first attempt. While I was applying for jobs, I made appearances for other attorneys, until I was hired by the San Bernardino County Public Defender's Office in 1998. I worked as a Deputy Public Defender in that office for over 12 years. During my time, there, I embraced the opportunity to learn every aspect of criminal defense practice and to fine tune my craft. I proved my ability to efficiently and effectively handle a very high volume of misdemeanor cases very quickly, and so, I was promoted to do felony trial work after less than a year on the job.
In addition to handling thousands of adult misdemeanor and felony cases of all types as a Deputy Public Defender, I worked exclusively in the Juvenile courts for four years, where I received the “Outstanding Attorney of the Year” award in 2005, the only time it was given out. I was also a pioneering member of the Central Homicide Panel, which formed in the office in 2008. While there, despite having to handle upwards of 15 murder cases at a time, I was able to negotiate several great deals for my clients, and I successfully tried many cases to jury verdict with great results. I still annually attend various legal seminars to ensure that I stay on top of new issues, and I, myself, have lectured to several local attorneys over the years on a variety of topics such as new legal developments, trial tactics, criminal discovery, juvenile law, homicide law, and gang cases.
In other words, “How can you defend guilty people?” That is probably the number one question that every criminal defense attorney hears when they first tell people what they do, and it is also very telling of the person that asks it. Unfortunately many people still don’t correctly apply the “beyond any reasonable doubt” standard that is the backbone of our criminal justice system, and instead, they think that if you are charged by the State, you must be guilty of something, or else you would not have been arrested.
So why do I do it? To prevent people who think like that from sending people like you to jail for something you truly didn’t do. I strongly believe in the presumption of innocence and that it is my job to deliver this message as succinctly as possible to twelve reasonable people should the need arise. I think that it is the single most important feature of our legal system, with the right to an attorney and a unanimous jury verdict being tied for second.
Regardless of a person's guilt or innocence, I believe that every single individual in the criminal justice system deserves an attorney who will fight for them in order to help them get the best resolution possible in their case. Most cases are simply overcharged and you need someone with experience to let you know if you should stand strong or bend a little. If the State thinks you are afraid to exercise your rights, because you have a weak attorney, then you are really in trouble. Sometimes making them earn it is all the leverage you will have.
Unfortunately, in my career, I have witnessed too many criminal defendants being taken advantage of by savvy prosecutors and aggressive judges with more experience than their attorneys, or worse yet, those brave few souls who try to represent themselves. They often end up making poor decisions in court that can cost them forever, due to the enormous amount of stress they have from being locked up and their attorneys lacking the time, knowledge, and experience to properly advise them.
After serving for 12 years as a Deputy Public Defender, I have to admit that generally speaking, most Public Defenders simply just don't have the time they would like to have to spend with their clients. Their offices are usually run similar to an emergency room at a hospital, where patients are triaged based on the severity of their illness, and if your case isn't that severe compared to that guy in the box with a murder, robbery, rape, kidnapping, etc that just came in, than I guess you just won't get as much time as you'd like to talk to your attorney. You can and will be bumped around in many cases from attorney to attorney. I tried for years to fight the stigma attached to Public Defenders, only to realize it is an undeniable reality that apparently will never go away, as Public Defender's Offices are eternally understaffed and underfunded. It simply isn’t politically correct for a legislature to vote to give more money to defend those “obviously guilty” people, now is it?
I started officially as a private criminal defense attorney in October of 2010. My goal in defending the accused is to help slow the system down for them as much as possible. By that I don’t mean continuing the case forever, but rather I want to ensure that every one of my clients is fully informed of all of their options and that their case is fully investigated, in order to allow them to make the best decision for their individual situation. I will thoroughly review the discovery in your case for all legal issues and defenses, and I will review them with you until I am confident that you understand them. I will seek your input before I submit my investigation requests, and I will always share the results with you when I get them. I will thoroughly discuss any motions that I file on your behalf, or explain why they were not filed.
The fact is most criminal cases end up with some type of plea bargain, and you need my experience to help you know if you are being offered a "good" deal or if you should stick your heals in and risk going to trial. Educated decisions are the name of the game...stupid decisions will cost you your freedom. But if your case is one of the small percentage that actually goes to a jury trial, then you really need me on your side to effectively argue your defense to the jury. People hire me because I clearly know what I am doing, and I have been doing it very well for a long time.
I believe that all of my clients should be fully informed about everything that is going on in their case, and in fact, I encourage them to ask me questions throughout the process and do as much independent research as they want. That said, however, I still firmly believe that the best way for my clients to become educated is to speak with an experienced lawyer who spends their time in the courtrooms where their cases will be decided, as opposed to “jailhouse” lawyers or the internet! You wouldn’t want somebody operating on you after only reading about it on Web MD, would you? For that matter, even if you were a Dr., would you think it wise to operate on yourself? Certainly not! You need an experienced criminal defense attorney who will give you objectivity, perspective, and insight, no matter how educated you are yourself.
A major pitfall of trying to do it yourself is that the law is very much subject to a number of different factors in different courtrooms on any given day. Only an experienced trial lawyer will know how those factors will likely pan out by weighing who the judge is, who the prosecutor is, what type of case is it, as well as a number of other fluid factors only he is privy to. Therefore, your best option when you are arrested for a crime in the inland empire will always be to hire a reputable, experienced criminal defense attorney with a lot of jury trial experience in the local courts, someone like myself.
If you have been charged with any misdemeanor or felony offense in San Bernardino or Riverside County, contact attorney Jeffrey R. Lawrence for a free consultation.
Our office is conveniently located near the courthouse in downtown San Bernardino, California.
Appointments are required for office visits.
We accept Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover Card, and offer flexible payment plans.
341 W. 2nd St., Suite 4, San Bernardino, CA 92401
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