Lara Gressley grew up in Northern California and received her undergraduate degree at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Lara attended law school at Santa Clara University. While there, she earned the Witkin Award for her work in Constitutional Law, the Best Brief Award in a National Moot Court Competition, made Law Review, was an Honors Moot Court Finalist, and studied law at Oxford University in 2000. In 2002, she graduated from Santa Clara Law on the Dean's List and with Honors in Public Interest Law. That year, she took and passed the California Bar exam. Lara first worked at the Santa Cruz Public Defender's Office, where she gained experienced defending people charged with drunk driving and other crimes. Lara then worked for Legal Aid Society of San Diego, after which she took a job in Riverside, California where she worked as a court appointed trial attorney for individuals charged with serious crimes. As a trial lawyer, Lara obtained not guilty verdicts and dismissals for many of her clients whose charges ranged from drunk driving to burglary, robbery, grand theft auto, and drug offenses. Lara has also successfully defended those facing life in prison. Lara's primary objective in every case is to obtain justice for her clients.
In addition to her trial experience, Lara has become one of the preeminent criminal appellate attorneys in California. Lara has written appellate briefs filed in the California Court of Appeal, California Supreme Court, and in the United States Supreme Court. She regularly handles petitions for writ of habeas corpus in state and federal courts where actual innocence is an issue, and won a petition for writ of habeas corpus due to a Sixth Amendment Confrontation violation in the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. Among the criminal appeals, Lara has worked on the leading drunk driving appellate cases in California, People v. Vangelder, People v. Harris, and People v. Arredondo. Lara also worked on an Amicus brief filed in the California Supreme Court in the bail case of In re Humphrey, and on an Amicus brief filed in the U.S. Supreme Court case of Mitchell v. Wisconsin.
Lara lectures lawyers across the state with respect to research and writing, appeals, writs, motions, and trial work. She has lectured for California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, California DUI Lawyers Association, California Public Defenders Association, and National College for DUI Defense. Lara was also a guest lecturer at Pepperdine University School of Law in 2018. Due to her experience, Lara has become known by her colleagues as a go-to source on appellate advocacy and procedure, research and writing, DUI practice, DMV consequences, and challenges based on Sixth Amendment confrontation violations. Lara is a contributing author for Donald Bartell's book, Attacking and Defending Drunk Driving Tests. She wrote the appeals section as well as the writing tips and updates. Lara is the past President of the California DUI Lawyers Association, and a selected Southern California Super Lawyer in appellate law for 2020, 2021, and 2022.
Lara's passion has always been fighting against injustice, whether that be a wrongful conviction or an improper sentence. In 2018, Lara fought injustice by running for Riverside County District Attorney as a criminal justice reform candidate. Lara's election platform called for the end of unethical prosecutorial practices, the end of nonsensical mass incarceration and jail overcrowding, and for fairness and balance in criminal prosecutions. You can read more about her campaign here. Although Lara did not unseat the well-funded incumbent, she was honored to garner nearly 100,000 votes in Riverside County.
Lara lives in the Temecula Valley with her family, is a Christian, a professional singer, and speaks conversational Spanish.