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, and was an Honors Moot Court Finalist. In 2002, she graduated from Santa Clara Law on the Dean's List and with Honors in Public Interest Law. She took and passed the California Bar in 2002. 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.
In addition to her trial experience, Lara has become one of the preeminent criminal appellate attorneys in California. Lara has written appellate briefs in the California Court of Appeal, California Supreme Court, and in the United States Supreme Court. She also handled a successful Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus in Federal Court in which the Court vacated the conviction due to a violation of the client's Sixth Amendment confrontation rights. 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 co-wrote an Amicus brief in the California Supreme Court in the bail case of In re Humphrey. Although the majority of Lara's appellate practice focuses on constitutional challenges to criminal convictions, Lara also works on Petitions for Writ of Review and Mandamus in DMV actions, where she asks the court to overturn the DMV's decision to suspend her client's driver's license.
Lara was a speaker at the Annual California DUI Lawyers Association Seminar in San Francisco, California in 2013. Her lecture was about a Vehicle Code section that Lara co-wrote with Donald Bartell. The section allows those charged with second DUI offenses to receive a restricted license after pleading to the reduced charge of a wet reckless. Lara also was a speaker at the California Attorneys for Criminal Justice Seminar in Palm Springs, California in November, 2013. In Palm Springs, she spoke on misdemeanor appeals from the Appellate Division to the United States Supreme Court. Lara was again asked to speak on research and writing in 2015 at the California Public Defenders Association Seminar in Monterey. In August, 2015, Lara spoke at the California DUI Lawyers Association Seminar in San Francisco on DMV consequences for DUI convictions. Lara recently spoke at an MCLE for the Riverside County Public Defender's Office on DUI practice. Lara again spoke at the Annual DUI Lawyers Association Seminar in San Francisco, California in August of 2017 on appellate law and procedure, and at the Rules of the Road, California Attorneys for Criminal Justice Seminar in Palm Springs, California in September of 2017. Lara also spoke at the California DUI Lawyers Association Seminar in November of 2017, on the United States Supreme Court and California precedent regarding warrantless blood draws. Lara was 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's passion has always been fighting against injustice, whether that be a wrongful conviction or an improper sentence. Lara is also 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 President of the California DUI Lawyers Association.
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 husband and son, is a professional singer, and speaks conversational Spanish.