The Best Criminal Defense Attorneys in Richmond, Virginia
Finding yourself in need of a criminal defense attorney can be an incredibly stressful and scary situation. You’re likely facing serious charges and potential consequences like jail time, fines, probation, or impacts to your family, career, and reputation. It’s crucial to find an experienced and compassionate lawyer you can trust to fight for your best interests.
I’ve put together this guide to help you understand what to look for in a Richmond criminal defense lawyer. I’ll also recommend some of the top-rated criminal attorneys in the Richmond area that I would trust if I ever found myself in legal trouble.
What Makes a Great Criminal Defense Attorney?
There are a few key qualities that the best criminal lawyers have in common:
- Years of experience – You want an attorney that has represented hundreds if not thousands of clients over many years. They’ve seen it all and know how to craft the strongest defense strategy.
- Focus on criminal law – Some lawyers dabble in many areas of law. You want someone dedicated to criminal defense work day in and day out.
- Courtroom litigation skills – At trial, your lawyer’s presentation and cross-examination skills could make or break your case. Look for someone comfortable in the courtroom.
- Negotiation skills – Many criminal cases end in plea bargains. You want an attorney that can negotiate firmly but fairly with prosecutors.
- Compassion for clients – This is a scary time. You need a lawyer that will listen, guide you through the process, and fight aggressively on your behalf.
- Strong reputation – Check reviews and ask around. An attorney with a stellar reputation likely earned it by achieving great results for past clients.
- Focus on you – Beware “plea mill” attorneys that try to close cases quickly by urging everyone to plead guilty. You want personalized service.
- Communication skills – Your lawyer should be readily available to explain things and keep you updated on your case.
- Affordable rates – Their fees should provide good value, not break the bank.
Let’s look at some of the best criminal defense lawyers and law firms in Richmond that check these boxes.
Top Richmond Criminal Defense Attorneys
1. David Baugh – Baugh Legal, PLLC
With over four decades of criminal law experience, David Baugh is widely regarded as one of the best criminal defense lawyers in Richmond. He began his career as a public defender before founding Baugh Legal.
Baugh has an incredible track record of getting charges reduced or dismissed for clients facing serious felony charges like murder, sexual assault, drug trafficking, white collar offenses, and more. He’s known for his bold and aggressive litigation tactics.
Baugh also has a reputation for taking on controversial civil rights cases like defending Confederate flag displays. He fights vigorously for all clients even when public opinion is against them.
2. Ed Riley – Ed Riley Law Firm
A former public defender, Ed Riley has over 25 years of criminal defense experience. The Ed Riley Law Firm specializes in defending against Virginia state charges like DUI, drug possession, theft, and violent crimes.
Riley is known for his meticulous trial preparation and persuasive arguments in court. He has successfully defended many high-profile cases other attorneys turned down.
Clients praise Riley for his straight talk about their options and chances of success. He works tirelessly to get charges reduced or dismissed through motions or negotiating with the prosecution.
3. Joe Morrissey – Morrissey & Goldman
No one ever said criminal defense was a popularity contest. Joe Morrissey’s aggressive tactics rub some people the wrong way, but they also get results for his clients.
With 25+ years of experience that includes being a former Commonwealth’s Attorney and Virginia House of Delegates member, Morrissey knows how to fight the government and win. His firm defends against serious felonies along with misdemeanors and traffic cases.
Morrissey is an expert at finding technicalities and loopholes to get charges dismissed. If you want a bulldog lawyer on your side, he’s a great option.
4. Steve Benjamin – Benjamin & DesPortes, PC
Steve Benjamin is widely respected as one of the top trial attorneys in Virginia. He founded his firm over 25 years ago with a partner he met as a public defender.
Benjamin & DesPortes handles the full range of criminal charges from misdemeanors like petty theft and DUI to serious violent felonies. Benjamin is known for his skill at getting charges dismissed before trial.
If a trial is necessary, he’s a crafty litigator that dismantles the prosecution’s case. Benjamin takes clients facing the death penalty or life sentences and works tirelessly to avoid the harshest outcomes.
5. Tom Bondurant – Bondurant Law Firm
For over 30 years, clients facing criminal charges have turned to attorney Tom Bondurant for his compassionate yet aggressive defense. The former public defender handles cases ranging from white collar crimes to homicide charges.
Bondurant is known for thoroughly investigating the prosecution’s evidence and developing defense theories based on his findings. His meticulous preparation has led to many pretrial motions to get evidence thrown out leading to dismissals.
While he’s a bulldog in court, Bondurant also helps clients navigate collateral consequences like loss of professional licenses. He’s a counselor and advocate through the entire legal process.
6. Jennifer L. Givens – Givens & Johnston, PLC
Jennifer Givens is a fierce litigator devoted to defending people’s rights. The former public defender has over 20 years of criminal law experience.
Her firm Givens & Johnston handles all types of criminal charges along with civil rights litigation. Givens is known for her skill at getting charges dismissed pretrial.
She’s also a crafty trial lawyer that exposes flaws in the prosecution’s arguments. Givens’ compassion for her clients and command of the facts makes her a favorite of judges and juries.
7. James Maloney – Maloney Law Firm
With over 30 years of criminal defense work, James Maloney brings extensive courtroom experience to each case he handles. His firm takes on state and federal criminal defense work along with civil rights and appellate cases.
Maloney is a meticulous investigator who uncovers facts the government may have missed. He’s known for filing detailed motions poking holes in the prosecution’s case.
If a trial is unavoidable, Maloney is a zealous litigator who destroys witnesses on cross-examination. He has an impressive track record of getting charges dismissed and avoiding harsh sentences.
8. Michael Hemenway – Michael Hemenway Law
Former city council member Michael Hemenway leverages his deep roots in the Richmond community to advocate for his clients.
In over 20 years of criminal defense work, Hemenway has defended thousands of clients against charges like DUI, drug crimes, theft, and violent felonies. He’s known for keeping an open mind and ensuring clients fully understand their options before making decisions.
Hemenway works relentlessly to get charges dismissed through savvy negotiation with prosecutors. If a trial occurs, he’s a fierce litigator that exposes inconsistencies in the government’s case.
9. Aaron Balla Houchens P.C.
Aaron Balla honed his litigation skills during 6 years as a prosecutor before founding his criminal defense firm in 2011. He handles state and federal charges ranging from white collar crimes to drug trafficking and homicide cases.
Balla is a zealous advocate in negotiating with prosecutors to get charges reduced or dropped pretrial. He also files persuasive motions poking holes in the government’s case.
If a trial occurs, Balla destroys witnesses on cross-examination and convinces juries to acquit. His passion for justice makes him a favorite of clients facing long odds.
10. John LaFratta – Lafratta & Patton, PLC
John LaFratta is a highly experienced trial attorney devoted to criminal defense work. Before founding his firm, he worked as a public defender and prosecutor giving him insights from both sides.
In over 20 years of practice, LaFratta has gotten thousands of charges completely dismissed for his clients through tenacious litigation and negotiation. He also has an impressive record of obtaining acquittals in jury trials.
LaFratta is a tireless advocate who takes on challenging cases involving murder, sex crimes, drug trafficking, and other serious felonies. He’s known for his meticulous trial preparation and fierce arguments in court.
Choosing the Best Attorney for You
I hope this guide gives you a starting point in researching Richmond criminal defense attorneys. The lawyers profiled are among the best at getting favorable outcomes for clients facing challenging circumstances.
However, every case is different. Do your homework to find the right attorney for your specific situation. Set up initial consultations to meet lawyers and make sure you feel comfortable with them.
Don’t just choose the cheapest lawyer. This is your future at stake. Invest in the lawyer that inspires confidence they can get you the best possible result. This might cost more upfront but save you exponentially more over time.
The stakes are high when facing criminal prosecution. Having the right lawyer by your side can make all the difference. Lean on their experience to protect your rights, avoid jail time, and get your life back on track.