Avvo John W. Thornton, Attorney at Law - YELP


Call Us831-426-5800

Call Us831-566-4357

303 Potrero Street, Suite 30
Santa Cruz, CA 95060

Recent Blog Posts


 Posted on June 24, 2022 in Criminal Defense

california drivers license reinstatement lawyerWhen one is convicted of violating Vehicle Code section 23152(a) or 23152(b), or loses the DMV hearing related to a DUI arrest, a license suspension follows. Reinstating the license often involves showing DMV proof of enrollment in DUI classes, an SR-22 (a special certificate of insurance), and an IID (ignition interlock device). In their wisdom, DMV requires that the SR-22 and the proof of enrollment in DUI classes be submitted electronically from the folks who provide those things. Proof of IID, however, is done by showing a written certificate.  Once the driver has corralled all of these, they go to DMV, pay a reissue fee (not a small sum, could be as much as $250.00), and get their license reinstated. Seems easy, right?

Common pitfalls include: waiting to get into the DUI class and finding out they have a waitlist of a month or more to get enrolled, an insurance company that insists that they have sent the SR-22 to DMV when in fact this has not been done successfully, and the IID certificate not being 100% correct in the detail on the form (driver’s license number, date of install, license plate number, etc). One should always double-check all of these to make sure they are in place and in place correctly before heading down to the DMV to reinstate their license. It is frustratingly common to have DMV turn a driver away because of some failure to do the above correctly. 

Continue Reading ››


 Posted on June 17, 2022 in Criminal Defense

santa cruz dui defense lawyerWe’ve all seen TV shows and movies depicting people undergoing roadside sobriety testing; some of us have personally witnessed it. What are they doing? Is it scientific? Does it show whether one is under the influence of alcohol?

I’ve been handling DUI cases for over 30 years. In my opinion, these tests show whether a person can balance and whether one can multi-task. That’s it. What if a person does not do the tests perfectly? Sometimes this is obviously due to being drunk. Other times it is a person who has poor balance, or who has trouble multi-tasking in an anxiety-ridden roadside encounter with an officer who may just take them to jail. 


Officers will commonly ask a person to walk a line. In addition to asking them to walk the line, they will announce other commands: stand in a certain fashion during the directions, don’t attempt the test during the directions, walk heel to toe, for a certain number of steps, keep your arms down at your side, turn in a certain fashion, count out loud, etc. You can walk the line perfectly – but turn in one motion instead of the little motions they told you to do and they’ll count that as one of two strikes; put your arm out more than six inches and that will be the other strike they were looking for. Disobey just two of the commands and they’ll come to court and say that shows you were drunk. In a perfect world, there will be audio and video of this so you can challenge the officer’s report of what occurred. 

Continue Reading ››

When Will a License Suspension Hearing Be Held After a California DUI?

 Posted on March 01, 2021 in DUI

Santa Cruz, CA criminal defense attorney DUI

There are many violations that can lead to a motorist losing his or her driving privileges. For instance, being convicted of multiple moving violations, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol (DUI), reckless driving, or other offenses are serious traffic infractions that could result in the suspension of a driver’s license. In California, a motorist who is arrested for DUI is subject to two separate types of proceedings: criminal and administrative. A criminal conviction can result in fines and/or jail time. The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) can also take away driving privileges through an administrative hearing. This can significantly impact a person’s daily life, especially if he or she needs a car to get to and from work. If you are facing DUI charges, it is imperative that you hire a skilled criminal defense attorney to help you prepare for your hearing and achieve the best possible outcome. 

Continue Reading ››

February 2021 Update: Santa Cruz Courts, DUI, DMV, and COVID-19

 Posted on February 04, 2021 in DUI

Santa Cruz, CA criminal defense attorney DUI

It has now been nearly a year since COVID-19 has entered the picture, and it has brought havoc to the criminal and traffic courts and the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) along with the rest of our society. On a good note, the driving under the influence (DUI) programs (often required for a defendant to take to alleviate a license suspension or as a condition of probation) are up and running. They are also proceeding by way of Zoom or similar remote appearance technology. This is quite helpful; in the early months of COVID, the programs were closed, and this caused major problems for some people trying to regain their driving privileges. 

DMV has rolled forward with their hearings and insists that they be done by way of telephone. As for how this works when cross-examining an arresting officer? Showing a video to the DMV hearing officer? Other avenues to get one’s point across in a hearing? It does not work well at all. DMV does not seem to care much about these hurdles, and they continue to roll forward with their hearing procedures. 

Continue Reading ››

How Does Misdemeanor Diversion Affect California Criminal Cases?

 Posted on February 03, 2021 in Criminal Defense

Santa Cruz, CA criminal defense attorney misdemeanor

On January 1, 2021, California Penal Code section 1001.95 became effective. Referred to as “misdemeanor diversion,” this new law allows a judge to grant diversion to a defendant even over the prosecutor’s objection. It is called a diversion because the criminal case is diverted from prosecution, and it reads as follows:

(a) A judge in the superior court in which a misdemeanor is being prosecuted may, at the judge’s discretion, and over the objection of a prosecuting attorney, offer diversion to a defendant pursuant to these provisions.

(b) A judge may continue a diverted case for a period not to exceed 24 months and order the defendant to comply with terms, conditions, or programs that the judge deems appropriate based on the defendant's specific situation.

(c) If the defendant has complied with the imposed terms and conditions, at the end of the period of diversion, the judge shall dismiss the action against the defendant.

Continue Reading ››

All DMV Offices Will Open for Business Thursday, June 11 With Precautions Taken

 Posted on June 11, 2020 in Criminal Defense

The Department of Motor Vehicles will reopen all of its field offices on Thursday, easing the angst of thousands of drivers with expired licenses who have been unable to schedule appointments because of overloaded phone lines or closed offices.

All 169 field offices, opening for the first time since they were shut down at the end of March to prevent the spread of COVID-19, will be able to assist those with current appointments at a specific office and limited transactions that require an in-person visit.

“Fantastic,” said Cathy Meadows of San Jose, whose license expired May 8. “I still need to drive, at least, to and from the grocery store.”

Behind-the-wheel drive tests are not yet available, and the DMV warns that lines could be long and recommends that customers use its online services, expanded virtual services and other service channels to complete transactions, including eligible driver licenses and vehicle registration renewals.

Continue Reading ››

What if I Can’t Afford a Private Attorney When Charged With a Crime in Santa Cruz?

 Posted on February 24, 2020 in Criminal Defense

Santa Cruz criminal defense attorney public defenderIn California, when you are charged with a crime, you are entitled to have an attorney represent you in court. This can be a retained (hired) attorney, one whom you pay to go to court (and DMV) for you and help you wind your way through an often confusing situation. If you cannot afford to hire an attorney, you are not at all out of luck. The system provides criminal defense attorneys to help folks who cannot afford to hire private counsel, known as public defenders. Here in Santa Cruz, the public defenders are outstanding advocates for their clients. One often hears negative comments about public defenders in general - “just a government attorney,” “public pretender,” and “just another part of the system.” I can’t speak to areas where I don’t practice, but I can speak to the system in Santa Cruz, as I’ve been involved in it for over 30 years. The public defenders here are dedicated, intelligent, hard-working attorneys who zealously represent their clients. In short: they are outstanding attorneys. 

Continue Reading ››

How Can a DUI Arrest Affect My Reputation?

 Posted on February 19, 2020 in DUI

Santa Cruz DUI attorney license suspensionDrinking and driving is against the law, and an arrest for driving under the influence (DUI) can have a wide variety of negative consequences. In fact, even a first-time DUI can have far-reaching effects that may follow you for the rest of your life. If you are facing DUI charges, you will want to work with an experienced attorney to determine your best options for defense. 

Effects of a DUI Charge

Following a DUI arrest, you may not fully understand your rights, and you may be unsure about what will happen during your case. A DUI charge can affect your life and your reputation in a variety of ways, including:

  • Driver’s license suspension: Upon a DUI arrest, your license will typically be confiscated by law enforcement. Even if you are not formally charged or convicted of DUI, the Department of Motor Vehicles will issue an automatic driver’s license suspension. To contest this suspension, you must request an administrative hearing within 10 days after you receive notice of your license suspension. 

Continue Reading ››

DUI Chemical Test Refusal – Almost Always a Bad Idea

 Posted on January 13, 2020 in DUI

Santa Cruz, CA DUI attorney for license suspensionOne of the more common questions folks who are curious about DUIs ask is whether to take a breath or blood test, or whether to refuse testing. The answer is different for different situations, but one answer is easy: do not refuse the “chemical test” of breath or blood unless you do not care about having a driver’s license.

California law states that a driver has agreed to both agree to and submit to a “chemical test” after an arrest for DUI. The phrase “chemical test” can be misleading - it simply refers to a blood or breath test following arrest. They will not be putting chemicals in you, and at least here in Santa Cruz, the blood test is typically done at a hospital. There is a pre-arrest breath test called a PAS (preliminary alcohol screening test) that you can, by law, refuse - and the officer is bound to tell you that. After arrest, though - even an arrest that seems unlawful, off base, or just plain wrong - a refusal to take the “chemical test” will likely lead to a driver’s license suspension of at least one year. That is zero driving and zero sympathy, with your license gone for a year, no matter your need to drive.

Continue Reading ››

What Are My Rights if I Am Arrested By a Police Officer?

 Posted on August 29, 2019 in Criminal Defense

Santa Cruz criminal law attorney arrest rights

Getting arrested is stressful for anyone. An arrest may come unexpectedly, and you may be unsure about how to act. Regardless of the alleged offense for which you are being arrested, you continue to have rights after being detained. By understanding these rights, you can keep yourself safe and ensure that you are able to defend against any criminal charges resulting from the arrest. 

Your Rights During an Arrest

When being arrested, you have the right to remain silent. You can exercise this right at any time, but there are only specific circumstances where a police officer is required to state this right. Miranda rights are only given when a person is in custody and will be interrogated. If these rights are not read during an arrest, they should be read before the interrogation. The Miranda admonition states that you have the right to remain silent, that anything you say can be used against you, that you have the right to an attorney, and that you have the right to a court-appointed attorney if you cannot afford to hire an attorney. If you intend to stay silent until a lawyer is present, you can (and should) make that verbally clear to the arresting officer. If you cannot afford a lawyer, the state must provide one for you. Here in Santa Cruz, we have excellent state appointed attorneys, also known as public defenders. 

Continue Reading ››

Back to Top