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John William Thornton

Criminal defense Attorney at Santa Cruz, CA

4.9   54 reviews
  • Licensed for 33 years
    State CA
    Acquired 1990
    Status
    Active No misconduct found

We have not found any instances of professional misconduct for this lawyer.

About John

Learn John’s areas of practice.

NEED ADVICE ON HOW TO PROCEED IN A SITUATION WHERE YOU ARE SUSPECTED OF COMMITTING A CRIME?

John W. Thornton has been defending those accused of crime in Santa Cruz for over twenty years. Upon graduation from Santa Clara University School of Law in 1990, Mr. Thornton was hired as an attorney at at the biggest criminal defense firm in Santa Cruz County. Prior to graduation, Mr. Thornton had worked as both a defense investigator and law clerk for the same firm, Biggam, Christensen, and Minsloff. While there, Mr. Thornton handled thousands of cases, from citations for trespassing to accusations of murder.

In 1997, Mr. Thornton started his own firm, located in the Sash Mill complex in downtown Santa Cruz. He is a member of California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, the National Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys, the Santa Cruz County Criminal Defense Bar, and the Santa Cruz County Bar Association. Mr. Thornton is a past president of the Santa Cruz County Criminal Defense Bar.  Mr. Thornton's practice is limited to criminal defense in Santa Cruz County.

 

Awards

Client's Choice 2021,2013,2012,2010
Client's Choice
2021 2013 2012 + 1 ...

Location

John William Thornton

Reviews

4.9 / 5.0
  54 customer reviews
5 Star
 
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Client's Choice 2021
Client's Choice
Client's Choice is an Avvo award granted to attorneys with a significant number of client reviews over 4 stars in a given year.
Posted by WM | April 22, 2019
This review is from a person who hired this attorney.
| Hired Attorney
Professional, thorough, delivers.
This man changed my life. After close to 10 years since receiving a California felony "wobbler" conviction, I believed that I would always carry the label as a criminal, no matter where I went, or what I chose to pursue in life. This made it difficult to find work, enjoy my hobbies, or even maintain personal relationships. Moving forward, I reached out to John through a recommendation from a family friend. I was currently living out of state, and pursuing an education at a university. John (JT) made every step of the process clear and concise, taking extreme care to stay in communication with me along the way. After months of hard work and a lot of bouncing back and forth between us, I could tell that his preparation was thorough and we were ready. On the day that we won, I was absolutely ecstatic and felt tears of joy. I am forever in debt to this man. His service was outstanding, his personality is amazing, and he completely delivered on what was promised. I recommend him bar none to anyone who has hope for bettering their life and a second chance.
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Posted by Brian | November 13, 2018
This review is from a person who hired this attorney.
| Hired Attorney
World Class Service and Results
John Thornton is a consummate professional. Knows the law inside out, was able to negotiate the best settlement possible for my particular DUI. Was able to reduce my DUI school from 9 months to 3 months, a huge benefit. Handled every aspect of the case calmly, professionally and with an upbeat attitude. In fact, it is John's attitude that made the biggest impression upon me. Always positive, never judgmental, and laden with a refreshing dose of humor as well. Love his "can do" approach. Very highly recommended.
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Posted by anonymous | December 17, 2023
This review is from a person who hired this attorney.
| Hired Attorney
Above and Beyond
John absolutely went above and beyond helping me with my case. He was patient, compassionate, and empathetic. It is hard to find an attorney that genuinely has your well-being and best interest at heart, but I really felt John cared about getting me the best outcome possible. His guidance and support were immeasurably helpful. Thank you!
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Posted by Nick | November 12, 2023
This review is from a potential client who consulted with this attorney.
| Consulted Attorney
Responisve
John answered his phone on a Sunday afternoon and immediately spent the time to evaluate the situation, and in doing so revealed a deep understanding of the subject matter. Very helpful and appreciated.
Posted by Cole A. | January 13, 2023
This review is from a potential client who consulted with this attorney.
| Consulted Attorney
"Top Notch" is a massive understatement!!
John is essentially a super-hero, if you ask me. Wow, where do I begin! Outstanding experience working with Mr. Thornton from the very first complementary consultation regarding a very sensitive and potentially life altering Felony Strike Case, to consistent empathetic communication, expertise and extensive experience working Criminal/DUI defense in Santa Cruz County. Not only does he have an immense professional network of working relationships with the various local District Attorneys, Judges and Probation Department, John puts his clients best interest first at all costs. He isn't going to recommend any course of action that would not serve the utmost success of his diverse clientele. Even if it only comes down to coaching you on how to apply to see if you qualify for Public Defender representation, Mr. Thornton goes out of his way to ensure to the best of his abilities [and we're talking well over 30+ years of experience working exclusively in the Santa Cruz County Superior Court system] that his clients come out on top. If you or a loved one need representation from one of the most skilled Attorney's in 831, look no further, because with Mr. Thornton you are in the best of hands. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU, John, can't say it enough!!!
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Posted by Jan | June 16, 2022
This review is from a person who hired this attorney.
| Hired Attorney
Amazing attorney
John was referred and highly recommended to me by a local attorney. I hired John to represent me in a DUI case, which had non negotiable issues. John was still able to establish an outcome in my favor that I couldn't imagine possible, and I will forever be grateful. John is professional, skillful, kind, and always available for communication. I truly am blessed to have John represent me, and as a result of his expertise and diligence, I can breathe easy. I will refer John to anyone that needs a DUI or defense attorney, there is no need to look further.
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Posted by James | February 25, 2022
This review is from a person who hired this attorney.
| Hired Attorney
100/100
Hiring John was easily one of the best decisions of my life. From the First phone call to the settlement of my case, my experience with John was first-rate. John is personable and communicates to you like a fellow human being. His attention to detail is admirable. My case had a lot of different scenarios and ways it could play out... John utilized every possible angle he could to meet my goals with the case. John is a true professional. John Thorntons Experience, Attention to detail, Communication, personality, and timeliness was a beautiful thing to witness. I couldn't have dreamed of a better attorney to be on my side through this tough experience in my life. I Cannot Recommend John Thornton any higher!!!
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Posted by anonymous | October 18, 2021
This review is from a potential client who consulted with this attorney.
| Consulted Attorney
Consulted Mr. Thornton regarding misdemeanor expungement
Mr. Thornton is highly responsive and clear-minded and he provides excellent up-to-date explanations. During our brief consultation he was very knowledgeable and kind. We were referred unanimously to him by Bay Area attorneys and we are confident that he will provide expert, strong advocacy.
Posted by Ciro | October 4, 2021
This review is from a potential client who consulted with this attorney.
| Consulted Attorney
Very helpful
John was very helpful and helped me out quickly without question. He made the appropriate phone calls needed to resolve the situation and got it all figured out. Overall I would give him a ten out of ten.
Posted by anonymous | September 27, 2021
This review is from a potential client who consulted with this attorney.
| Consulted Attorney
Excellent!!!
John was very conscientious and generous with his time. My case was rather minor, but he gave me his undivided attention despite his busy schedule. In fact, he helped me figure out a problem in my case that saved me $1500 when he easily could have charged me to do the case himself. If I were facing more serious charges I would absolutely trust him with my defense.
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Posted by anonymous | August 30, 2021
This review is from a potential client who consulted with this attorney.
| Consulted Attorney
Amazing support by John!
John is amazingly responsive - he got back to me quickly even though he was vacationing in Mexico. He advised me regarding a juvenile misdemeanor and everything he predicted happened, which to me means that he knows his business very well! After every conversation I was left feeling informed and (to the extent possible) relaxed about what was going on and what to do next.
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Posted by Jesse | June 21, 2021
This review is from a potential client who consulted with this attorney.
| Consulted Attorney
Highly recommended!
I consulted with Mr. Thornton about my case, and he was incredibly generous with his time and offered free legal advice multiple times via emails and phone calls even before getting hired or paid. His advice was incredibly helpful too. He is caring, compassionate, intelligent, and knew all the workings of the legal system. I would highly recommend Mr. John Thornton!
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Posted by anonymous | April 12, 2021
This review is from a potential client who consulted with this attorney.
| Consulted Attorney
Would recommend
Seems very genuine and understanding. It's nice being able to speak with a lawyer who just wants to help
Posted by anonymous | July 24, 2020
This review is from a person who hired this attorney.
| Hired Attorney
Thorough, professional, and effective DUI attorney
I hired John after I was charged with a DUI for which I was facing criminal penalties and a loss of driving privilege that would have had a severe impact on both my personal and professional life. I knew that I had not actually committed any crime, but that proving so was going to be an uphill battle. John diligently gathered and documented evidence, including the acquisition of security camera footage, which ultimately convinced the county not pursue a case against me. In addition to the initial DUI charge, I had also refused to take the field breathalyzer, which can result in an automatic 1 year license suspension. This was an even harder battle to win and actually ended up going to a hearing with the DMV. Once again John expertly presented evidence, gave excellent counsel as to my own testimony, and made well conceived opening/closing statements that convinced the hearing officer to set aside the suspension of my license. Over a year after the initial incident my record and driving privilege was left unscathed and I couldn't be happier with John's work. I always had the sense that he wanted to win and he did. Money well spent!
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Posted by Monica | July 10, 2020
This review is from a person who hired this attorney.
| Hired Attorney
Best lawyer ever
John really took the time to review my case and get me the best outcome. With Covid going on, we did all our communication via email and phone and he was always available to discuss my case and give me the legal advice I needed. He went above and beyond in settling my case and I highly recommend him.
Posted by anonymous | January 23, 2020
This review is from a person who hired this attorney.
| Hired Attorney
Genuinely invested in clients success
John handled my case incredibly tactfully and managed to secure a great result! He is well connected and experienced in navigating the court system in Santa Cruz, and is a very easy to communicate with (very quick response time). Most of all, he genuinely cares about his clients wellbeing and the end result in the case, and is relatable, empathetic, and kind.
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Posted by Tracey | August 12, 2018
This review is from a person who hired this attorney.
| Hired Attorney
Trustworthy, Knowledgeable, and Empathetic
When I called John (or JT as I now know him) the day after my DUI, I knew instantly I could trust him to represent my DUI case in Santa Cruz. JT was an empathetic ear in that moment when I had found myself in a pathetic situation. He was realistic about my circumstances and genuine in every sense of the word. He even ‘checked in’ on me periodically, knowing this was a very private matter for me at the time. With the nature of my career, JT was able to represent me every step of the way, providing timely feedback, and keeping me on track to get through this process as streamline as possible. JT kept in touch with me over the years and furthermore successfully represented me during my DUI ‘dismissal’ 3 years later, which has helped me to move forward successfully in my career.
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Posted by shawn | May 30, 2018
This review is from a person who hired this attorney.
| Hired Attorney
Fantastic Human Being, Fantastic Legal Service
The contrast between John and the lawyers I contacted before providence brought me to his doorstep is night and day. With others, question #1 was “how much money do you have”, and more than one hung up on me merely at a hesitation in my reply. John’s first move was to listen to me. His second move was to immediately call the DA’s office on my behalf, before the question of hiring him even came up. The arresting officer had gone far out of his way to stretch the story and concoct the case for a felony arrest, and I found myself in real trouble. (Unsolicited advice from my personal experience: even the most innocuous details shared before Miranda rights are read can and will be used against you, and it’s in the cop’s own professional best interest to make it sound like they’ve arrested the biggest criminal imaginable.) Just by presenting my perspective he got my booking reduced to a misdemeanor, which also meant his fee to handle the case would be lower because there would be less work involved. Then, 5 years later, he successfully filed to have my record sealed. I hadn’t yet requested help, and even felt nervous even asking for his advice about whether shaking an arrest on my record was an option for me. There was no additional charge, just the unsolicited offer of “let me see what I can do for you”. If there’s one thing missing from all these reviews, in which so many others share my experience with John, it’s that the prosecutors at the Santa Cruz courthouse have just as much trust and respect for John—for his humanity, honesty and fairness—as we do. I witnessed it in every interaction from that first phone call through the judges gavel, and it’s because he treats everyone, including them, with an equal respect. Beyond John’s significant legal expertise, his relationship with the court is an invaluable asset. The court took his account into consideration, over the cop’s, in my booking. The court was forthcoming with information, both the facts as they considered them and what their intentions would be in prosecuting the case, which helps with peace of mind during a stressful time. In court, he sat on the prosecutors side and worked things out with the DA before my case was called. The entire court proceeding was no more than the judge’s rubber stamp on our mutual agreement, and I was spared all penalty beyond the black mark on my record. And he didn’t stop until even that was gone. The best part is, he’s not being a good person to gain advantage, he’s just being himself.
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Posted by Renee | October 5, 2017
This review is from a person who hired this attorney.
| Hired Attorney
Most Professional & Empathetic
John Thornton is on of the most professional people I have ever met. I was in the most stressful position of my life and he helped me more than anyone ever could. During the entire process of John working for me he was there for me, empathetic, he did everything he said he was going to do when, he said he would do it, and did his best! John is a high integrity man. We need more people like him. I can not say enough nice things about him. He saved my life.
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Posted by anonymous | May 13, 2017
This review is from a person who hired this attorney.
| Hired Attorney
Best lawyer hands down
John got an awesome verdict for me on a hard case to win; helped me through the process and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend him to anyone who needed a DUI lawyer. John is the man, it's that simple.
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Cost

Rates
  • Retainer Always
Payment methods
Cash, Check, Credit Card

Resume

AVVO RATING 10.0 (Superb)

Work Experience

  • Attorney
  • Law Office of John W. Thornton
  • 1997 - Present
  • Deputy Public Defender
  • Biggam, Christensen, & Minsloff
  • 1990 - 1997
  • Law Clerk
  • Biggam, Christensen, & Minsloff
  • 1988 - 1990
  • Investigator
  • Biggam, Christensen, & Minsloff
  • 1986 - 1987
View all work experience

Education

  • Santa Clara Univ SOL
  • JD - Juris Doctor
  • 1990
  • University of California - Santa Cruz
  • BA - Bachelor of Arts
  • 1987

Associations

  • Santa Cruz County Criminal Defense Bar Association
  • Board of Directors
  • 2014 - Present
  • Santa Cruz County Criminal Defense Bar Association
  • Past President
  • 1997 - Present
  • California Attorneys for Criminal Justice
  • Attorney Member
  • 1997 - Present
  • National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
  • Attorney Member
  • 1997 - Present
  • Santa Cruz County Bar Association
  • Attorney Member
  • 1997 - Present
  • California DUI Lawyers Association
  • Attorney Member
  • 1997 - Present
  • California Public Defenders Association
  • Attorney Member
  • 1990 - Present
  • Santa Cruz County Criminal Defense Bar
  • Board Member
  • N/A
View all associations

Languages Spoken

  • English

Speaking Engagements

  • 2019 DUI Law Update
  • DUI Law
  • 2019
  • Public Defenders Office
  • All Things DUI/DMV
  • 2015
  • DMV Consequences of DUI Arrests
  • DMV Consequences of DUI Arrests
  • 2015
  • Continuing Legal Education
  • License Consequences of DUI Arrests and Convictions
  • 2013
  • Santa Cruz County Bar Association MCLE Roundup
  • Ethics in Criminal Law
  • 2002
View all speaking engagements

Attorney endorsements

Received (14)
Given (16)
Endorse John
DUI and DWI Attorney | Feb 19
Relationship: Fellow lawyer in community
"I endorse this lawyer. JT is a great lawyer and a great guy. He's one of the lawyers I call when I need advice. If you are charged with a DUI in Santa Cruz County, he has the knowledge and experience to help you."
DUI and DWI Attorney | May 21
Relationship: Worked together on matter
"I highly recommend John Thornton as a criminal defense attorney, especially for those facing DUI charges. He is an extremely effective advocate for his clients with proven results."
DUI and DWI Attorney | Feb 27
Relationship: Fellow lawyer in community
"John is a top notch attorney. He is DUI specialist who works hard to get good results for his clients."
Criminal defense Attorney | Apr 30
Relationship: Fellow lawyer in community
"John is a great attorney and an incredibly pleasant person. I interned in multiple local offices in Santa Cruz and heard nothing but positive things about his legal reputation. Not long ago, I had a client with an issue in Santa Cruz and asked John for some help and advise and he was extremely helpful. This is the attorney I would recommend for anyone needing legal help in Santa Cruz."
DUI and DWI Attorney | Dec 03
Relationship: Fellow lawyer in community
"I have known John for over 25 years and endorse him. He is an outstanding attorney, who works every angle of a case. I have seen John achieve great results in cases that other attorneys would not be able to obtain. If you are charged with a DUI or any criminal matter, I highly recommend John Thornton."
Criminal defense Attorney | Mar 05
Relationship: Worked together on matter
"I endorse this lawyer. I have know JT since I was a law clerk in Santa Cruz Public Defender's Office and he was one of the Attorneys. He has ALWAYS been a dedicated intelligent, hard working and amazing attorney. Not only is he a great attorney he is a wonderful person as well. The best you could get in Santa Cruz!"
DUI and DWI Attorney | Mar 02
Relationship: Fellow lawyer in community
"John is a fierce advocate for his clients. John truly cares about the people he is representing. John keeps up with current case law and legislation and is highly respected. I would, without any hesitation, recommend John to anyone withy a DUI or other criminal law case."
Criminal defense Attorney | Jan 30
Relationship: Fellow lawyer in community
"I strongly endorse John Thornton ("JT"). He is very experienced and has a strong reputation. He is smart, personable, and down to earth. I have referred several clients to him over the last 10 years with no complaints, and will continue doing so."
Criminal defense Attorney | Dec 12
Relationship: Fellow lawyer in community
"I endorse this lawyer."
DUI and DWI Attorney | Oct 28
Relationship: Fellow lawyer in community
"I endorse this lawyer. He's a wonderful attorney, plus a super nice guy. I have known him for 20 years and without any doubt, he is a fine lawyer and person."
DUI and DWI Attorney | Sep 30
Relationship: Fellow lawyer in community
"I very much admire the work John Thornton does for his clients. He has a vast knowledge of the law, he is highly respected by judges and prosecutors and he is extremely ethical. Most of all, he knows how to win cases."
Criminal defense Attorney | May 17
Relationship: Fellow lawyer in community
"John is an outstanding attorney, I"ve known him since law school and can vouch for his deeply felt commitment to his clients. He's a real fighter and is truly an expert in the area of criminal defense. If you are in trouble do yourself a favor and immediately hire John."
Criminal defense Attorney | Mar 08
Relationship: Fellow lawyer in community
"As a long time member of the local legal community in Santa Cruz County, I highly recommend the Law Office of John Thornton for all criminal defense cases. He is respected by his peers for his expertise in his field. He is competent, knowledgeable and effective in dealing with criminal matters."
DUI and DWI Attorney | Mar 05
Relationship: Fellow lawyer in community
"John Thornton is an exceptional lawyer. You know that from the first instant you meet or talk with him. He has a unique yet highly effective approach to the practice of DUI defense and criminal defense in general. He is able to spot issues and solutions that defy other lawyers. He is always approachable, friendly and helpful to his peers. You won't find a more stand-up guy in any profession. And if you need a lawyer to defend you on any criminal charge in Santa Cruz, you can't do any better than hiring John Thornton."
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DUI and DWI
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DUI and DWI
Juvenile law
DUI and DWI
DUI and DWI
DUI and DWI
DUI and DWI
DUI and DWI
DUI and DWI
DUI and DWI
Criminal defense
Personal injury

Avvo Contributions

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Santa Cruz Criminal defense Lawyer John William Thornton
John William Thornton
Criminal defense Attorney
Santa Cruz, CA
Licensed for 33 years