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Steven Hideki Nakano

Criminal defense Attorney at San Jose, CA

4.8   23 reviews
Free consultation
Free consultation
  • Licensed for 42 years
    State CA
    Acquired 1980
    Not Eligible to Practice Law (Not Entitled) No misconduct found

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

About Steven

Learn Steven’s areas of practice.

Practice areas
  1. Criminal defense
    I represent clients for every kind of criminal case from DUI's to homicides. My practice is very client-oriented and I believe that it is critical that I take the time to get to know my client to best represent him or her. To this end, I have a team that includes an investigator, a therapist and a residential drug and alcohol treatment program, called Amicus House. Please watch my office video.

    42 years, 1,000 cases

  2. DUI and DWI

    42 years, 1,000 cases

  3. Violent crime

    42 years, 1,000 cases

  4. White collar crime

    42 years, 1,000 cases

  5. Domestic violence

    42 years, 1,000 cases

  6. Juvenile law

    42 years, 1,000 cases


     I have been a criminal defense attorney since 1981, having graduated from USF Law School in 1980 and passing the bar exam in that same year.  I worked 5 years in the Santa Clara County Public Defender's Office from February 1981 to August 1985.   I opened my office with long-time friend and partner, Glenn Sugihara in August of 1985.  Thus, my phone number has always been. 

     My office is located at 161 Jackson Street, Suite 200, San Jose, California in the heart of downtown San Jose in what is called, "Japantown."  Japantown has historical significance for the Japanese-American community.  It is the location of Japanese Buddhist Temple and of the Japanese Methodist Church both locate on 5th Street near Jackson Street, the Issei Memorial Building, Japanese-American Cultural Center and Museum and many fine Japanese Restaurants, Professional businesses and shops.

     I practice criminal defense primarily in the State Courts of California; "everything from DUIs to homicides."  Please watch the video above.  My practice is very "client-centered."  That means, that it is important to me to get to know my clients so that I can represent each client as an individual.  Therefore, I have a team of investigators, private therapists and often refer my clients to drug and alcohol treatment programs.  I helped to start AMICUS HOUSE residential drug and alcohol treatment program, which is the premier drug and alcohol program in Santa Clara County and which always receives the highest ratings by the Courts and by the District Attorney's Drug Program Oversight committee.

     I was the first attorney to produce an Animated Forensic Reconstruction of a shooting based upon the bullet paths to help to establish that the shooting was in self-defense, leading to the aquittal of my client in the case of California versus Shanandoha Garcia 1997.  The video was featured on a television program, Tech Now with Bay Area News Reporter, Scott McGrew.  Shanandoha has gone on to lead a very happy life, following his 3 year incarceration awaiting jury trial.  He is currently employed by the U.S. Department of Defense.  He is married with 2 children.

     Perhaps my greatest legacy are the former clients who, like Shanandoha,  have gone on to graduate from local colleges and universities, some who have even received Master's degrees.  A few others have become recognized local artists.  And many are active members of our community and role models for younger generations to come.

     I have always balanced my stressful criminal law practice with my love of music and am currently in four bands.  I also ran for Superior Court Judge in 1996 and lost despite having the support of almost the entire Santa Clara County Superior Court Bench.


Top Contributor 2019,2018,2017,2016,2015
Top Contributor
2019 2018 2017 + 2 ...
Client's Choice 2014
Client's Choice

Photos and videos

Contact Steven

Steven H. Nakano
161 Jackson Street
Suite 200
San Jose, CA, 95112-5150


4.8 / 5.0
  23 customer reviews
5 Star
4 Star
3 Star
2 Star
1 Star
Client's Choice 2014
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 AJ | October 18, 2014
Saved my life
I don't have enough good things to say about Mr Nakano. I was falsely accused of a serious crime which could have cost me my career. In my case I was up against a cop that was blatantly lying about what he was told happened, and a less than ethical DA who ignored evidence and tried to bully me into a plea deal for a crime I had not committed. Mr Nakano put a stop to all of that at trial. He ate them alive. It was a thing of beauty to see him in action. By the time Mr Nakano was done with them, I walked out a free man with my head held high. Innocent until proven guilty really doesn't exist, so you better make damn sure you have a good attorney if you want to survive the modern day American judicial system.
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Posted by Lindsay | September 12, 2014
Steve Nakano: Lawyer, Musician, Spiritual Guru
Mr. Nakano represented me in 1994 for a serious DUI involving an accident. It was a very confusing and difficult time in my life; yet, amazingly, I still look back on it all somewhat fondly and remember how much I learned from Mr. Nakano. I agree with each positive review that has been written here regarding Mr. Nakano's prowess in the courtroom, his undeniable ability to put people at ease during an intense and frightening situation, and above all, his compassion for all human beings whom he feels deserve to have a second chance (sometimes more...) and be given a way in which to make right what has been done wrong. Mr. Nakano was much more than a lawyer. He was a warrior, a healer, a teacher and a confidante. While the circumstances of the case, the accident, the regrets and the shame broke me down, Mr. Nakano took the time to help me build myself back up. He showed the judge and the DA the young woman behind the drinking problem and kept me from a future that would not have been good for any. Absolutely...I would recommend anyone to seek out his services if you are in need of an attorney. He is one that cares for you and fights the system on your behalf.
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Posted by Phil | January 7, 2023
This review is from a person who hired this attorney.
| Hired Attorney
Thank you
I was accused by police for abusing my son. I admit that I am a tough father but I am not the "abuser" described by the police. When I was released from jail I started seeking an attorney on AVVO. Mr. Nakano's experience drew my attention. However, my stereotype about lawyers reserved me from making immediate decision to hire him. After looking through his website, I told myself "why not give him a chance, and give yourself a chance". Because of our similar ethnic background, he could look at the situation from my perspective. Not only that, Mr. Nakano suggest me started to makeup for my mistake before the court date. He recommended Parents' Group, a group therapy that help distressed parents. In addition, he recommended me seeing professional counselor, who had taught me a lot because he had already went through the path that I am going through. Because of Mr. Nakano's help, I was dismissed of the charges by the police and was exonerated from CACI listing. Most importantly, my relationship with my son has improved. We enjoyed our Thanksgiving vacation in Disney; played retro video games and light saber duel together during Christmas Holidays. Aside from all the fun, he is still willing to follow my guidance to learn math and English daily. Thank you Mr. Nakano.
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Posted by anonymous | January 14, 2022
This review is from a person who hired this attorney.
| Hired Attorney
Steven Nakano is the G.O.A.T.
He is absolutely an amazing lawyer! Super professional and his experience and ratings prove it all! This man successfully managed to get my case dismissed and I will forever be grateful for his services. His services are a little on the expensive side, especially for students or new college grads but with a high success rate for his cases and the years of experience under his belt, it is completely understandable. Overall, 100% would recommend.
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Posted by Brian | April 26, 2020
This review is from a potential client who consulted with this attorney.
| Consulted Attorney
Best attorney in the Bay Area
I came to Mr Steven Nakano awhile back concerned about a possible criminal case against me regarding an alledged a hit and run on the freeway resulting in property damage. After the police contacted me and conducted their investigation it was confirmed I was not involved in any hit and run. Turns out the party who claimed I was involved was pulling an insurance scam. Steven Nakano and myself had a consultation in his office and he put me at ease that I had nothing to be concerned about. He is clearly very skilled and very professional. He is one of the best attorneys in the bay area. And I'm very thankful for him. Thank you Mr. Steven Nakano. Im confident if this case falsely accusing me would have went to trial then I would hire Mr Steven Nakano to represent me. Thank you so much again. You are a national treasure Mr. Steve Nakano. 1
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Posted by Roderick | October 29, 2019
This review is from a person who hired this attorney.
| Hired Attorney
Best Advocate is a Lawyer You Can Trust
Steven Nakano is the kind of lawyer you want to be in your corner when you are going through a case in the court system. He was very knowledgeable of all court expectations and procedures to help me get a favorable outcome in my case. He went out of his way to schedule additional court dates to address my medical issues with court. He was very informative of all my options to help me and my family make the right decisions on how to proceed. Going through this kind event in one's life is very stressful but having a trustworthy lawyer like Steven Nakano to help and support us with all our needs made everything so much easier. You can't put a price on having peace of mind when you need it most... Thank you Steven.
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Response from Steven Nakano November 7, 2019
Thanks Roderick, Your review reminded me of all the problems getting the Dept. of Corrections to allow you to do something so simple as to bring your "B-Pap" machine so that you can sleep when serving your sentence. Thankfully, we had a judge who understood the dangers of sleep apnea. BTW I am really proud of you for turning your life around and using your experience to counsel young people about the dangers of drug use and other risky behavior. I am certain that your family is proud of you too! - Steve Nakano
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Posted by anonymous | October 28, 2019
This review is from a potential client who consulted with this attorney.
| Consulted Attorney
Scooter DUI
I received a DUI for riding an electric scooter. I reached out to Steven for a consultation regarding the charge against me. Before our consultation, I did some independent research and I noted there were other charges directly related to riding a scooter that were infractions and not a misdemeanor. On the return call from Steven, he noted he is available for a free consultation. He said he only has them in person to try to get to know his client that he might decide to represent. He made time to see me the next morning. After learning my situation, we looked up the different codes that I researched to see if I should've been charged those instead. He said this is the first time he saw a case like this. He is well respected in the community and has a lot of professional relationships. He called the DA office to see what they would charge me (to see if they would use the other codes we have researched or continue with the DUI). The DA informed him that they would not continue this case as a DUI but as in infraction. Because of this, Steven saved me thousands of dollars, not attending traffic/DUI classes, and not installing a breathalyzer in my car.
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Response from Steven Nakano November 7, 2019
It is NOT often that a client comes to my office having researched the law himself. The DA's office had not even formulated a policy about filing the infractions for DUI electric scooters or DUI's that will effect people's driver's license and driving privilege. I am happy things worked are going to work out for you. - Steve Nakano
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Posted by Marcus M. | September 3, 2019
This review is from a person who hired this attorney.
| Hired Attorney
I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Nakano last year because he was my fathers attorney in a case. Steve and I communicated back and forth due to the fact my dad is old school and doesn't do emails. He's more of a face to face kind of guy. Also because the outcome of this case would weigh heavily in my family law proceedings that were ongoing at the time so I wanted to make sure Steve was the right guy for the job. Steve would reply to emails in a timely manner, return voicemail messages and took the time to make sure I understood everything that was occurring in my dads litigation. He never was rushing us out of his office during meetings and made sure we had all questions or concerns answered before leaving. He even drove us to the courthouse a couple times and walked in with us so we wouldn't have to find/pay for parking and we left our car at his office. During the process Steve was very straight forward and direct, but at the same time compassionate and caring. He didn't tell us what we wanted to hear, he told us the truth which unfortunately is hard to find sometimes in the field of work he does. It wasn't about the money it was about making sure my dad had the best opportunity to be found not guilty. I personally watched Mr. Nakano walk into courtrooms and immediately be greeted by bailiffs, clerks and other attorneys which told me he was well respected in the courtroom. His knowledge of the system and his calm demeanor with an aggressive approach when needed is what sets him apart from other lawyers. Before trial my dad was questioning Steve's game plan and even had me second guessing it. Steve reassured us he's been in this business a long time and not to worry. "The truth will prevail" he said and the truth did! NOT GUILTY was the verdict! What a great feeling! After the trial instead of just shaking our hands and saying farewells, Steve like a true gentleman invited us back to his office to celebrate. We went back and just talked about life and listened to some of his music. It felt like we were hanging out with a old time friend or family member. I can't say enough about Steve not only as an attorney but as a person in general. All I can say is Thanks!
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Response from Steven Nakano November 7, 2019
I think your father's was the fastest trial ever. It took one day to pick a jury. One day to hear all of the evidence. And, less than one day for the jury to come back, "Not guilty." It was certainly NOT a "sure thing." Sometimes, the jury can just figure out who is telling the truth and who is lying. Thank you for this review. I appreciate it. Steven Nakano
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Posted by anonymous | March 27, 2018
This review is from a potential client who consulted with this attorney.
| Consulted Attorney
He helped clarify some questions I had about my friends case so that I was able to figure out what was going on and put the info I had together myself
Response from Steven Nakano August 23, 2019
Glad to be a help. Not all people seeking advice need to hire a attorney.
Posted by anonymous | January 3, 2018
This review is from a potential client who consulted with this attorney.
| Consulted Attorney
Answered my question about removing conviction
Mr. Nakano was explained to me that there is really very limited options to fully remove a prior conviction.
Posted by anonymous | October 11, 2017
This review is from a potential client who consulted with this attorney.
| Consulted Attorney
One of a Kind!!
I can confidently say there are very few people like Steve in the world, let alone in the legal world. I had the opportunity to consult with Steve on my case today and was thoroughly impressed by his character, zen demeanor and simply put, kindness. Although I did not need to retain Steve for counsel at this point, if I ever needed a lawyer or my friends/family did, I would go with Steve in a second. Steve is genuine and provided solid advice and demonstrated empathy around my situation. He also encouraged me to seek to understand behaviors and the root of what really caused the circumstances. Steve has a big heart and a wealth of experience. If you ever have a case, just call Steve. I’m confident you won’t regret it and you’ll likely get some great stories and wisdom along the way. Thank you Steve! Keep up the strong work, you are one of a kind!
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Posted by anonymous | May 9, 2017
This review is from a potential client who consulted with this attorney.
| Consulted Attorney
A very caring attorney
I talked to Steve regarding my case and though I did not retrain him for counsel he still provided me with advice and true empathy for not only my case but also my current stituation in general. The advice he provided was also in the best interest of me and not to scare me into getting unneeded services. Thanks again
Posted by Jimmy | February 23, 2017
This review is from a person who hired this attorney.
| Hired Attorney
Great lawyer
My experience with Steven was hands down amazing. No one ever wants to need a lawyer, but in the off chance you do Steven is the guy to call. He was not only professional and extremely knowledgeable, but you can tell he is there to help you. Not only did he win my case but he was able to get it done quickly and got me back to work asap. If you are having legal trouble I highly suggest that you give Steve a call, you will not regret it.
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Posted by anonymous | August 2, 2016
This review is from a person who hired this attorney.
| Hired Attorney
Case Dismissed!
I was trying to submit a record clearance for a previous strike case but was denied because there was a warrant out for my arrest for a 2012 case. Honestly, I didn't even know about the warrant. I came to Mr. Nakano looking at 8 years in jail because my 2012 case was another strike. I was charged with cultivation among other things. Mr. Nakano wrote a speedy trial motion and got my entire case DISMISSED. If you are looking for a lawyer who will fight for you, he is your man.
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Posted by anonymous | January 29, 2016
This review is from a person who hired this attorney.
| Hired Attorney
Can't ask for much better than Mr. Nakano
My experience with Mr. Nakano was one that words can't really describe. We set out a goal, plan, and achieved it with flying colors. Not only is Mr. Nakano a just a lawyer he is the true definition of what legal counsel should represent. I truly respect everything he stands for and believe he wants the best for his clients. If you are looking for lawyers and you are lucky enough to meet Steve .. do yourself a favor and just listen.
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Posted by Mel | October 15, 2015
This review is from a person who hired this attorney.
| Hired Attorney
Well recommended Lawyer
Mr. Nakano did well for my domestic violence case. I was able to avoid jail time and still keep my job. Very grateful to have hired him for my case. His recommendation to seek counseling through Ken Deavers help me tremendously. Mr. Nakano is an outstanding attorney. He has helped me understand the entire court process and gave me the insights to overcome this hurdle. Mr. Nakano's assistant Thy Nguyen also made me feel at ease when it came time for court. I'm usually nervous when court date comes up. But all in all the Law office of Mr. Nakano is highly recommended to represent you in court.
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Response from Steven Nakano August 23, 2019
Thank you Mel. I am really happy that things worked out for you. I hope that you continue to thrive! Steve-
Posted by Victor | March 24, 2015
Lawyer with a heart
I've been using and referring Steve for close to 20 years. He has helped me with several cases over the years. All with amazing results. Steve is honest, sincere, has a wealth of experience, and is really just a great person. He doesn't just solve my cases for me, but he also helped me as a mentor, friend, and confidant. His Zen approach puts you at ease, and you know your problems are in good hands. It also doesn't hurt that he has quite the reputation. There is nothing like having your attorney walk in the courtroom and get greeted by everyone. The DA's know him, all the judges, even the bailiffs. It really makes you feel at ease. He's even been the main article on the front page of the San Jose Mercury News for something amazing he did. Steve may not have the big ads and flashy commercials like the other lawyers (he's never been much of a self promoter), but I would bet dollars to doughnuts that he would run circles around them all in court. If you have a case, especially in Santa Clara County, do yourself a favor, stop looking at reviews and call Steve now. He is the without a doubt the best and most respected what he does. Schedule an interview and you will see the difference with one meeting.
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Posted by anonymous | September 22, 2014
Grateful for his guidance
Mr. Nakano helped guide us through a system that we were unfamiliar with. We appreciated all of the time he took to talk with us. He spent many hours not only explaining, but also helping to put things into perspective. We will always feel fortunate to have been referred to Mr. Nakano.
Posted by George Castaneda | September 12, 2014
Grateful I was represented by Mr. Nakano
I've known Mr. Nakano for many years now. I 've had friends he's represented in the past. Now he is currently working on a case for me. Because of Mr. Nakano reputation with the courts he was able to convince the judge to give me and his recommendations an opportunity to make a difference in my life today. Because of Mr Nakano and the program he advised me to get into ( Amicus house ). Iam actually learning how to live life on life's terms. Something I could never do on my own. Not just is he a great attorney he genuinely cares for his clients. And speaking from experience this is very hard to find in this county. I've had many attorney's. Never have I met one like Mr Nakano. He has gone way out of his way to help me. Not just in my current case but in my life. Because of the program he recommended iam learning so many tools to go on and live life as I was intended to live it. A healthy responsible active member in the community. And I owe this all to Mr. Nakano. To me he is more than my attorney he is family.... Thank you for everything you have been a true inspiration in my life thank you..... Do I recommend him as an attorney ? YES IN DEED.....
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Posted by Kurt | August 28, 2014
If you are looking for a great representative, Steve Nakano could not come more highly recommended. Mr. Nakano has helped me through several cases and has always been effective with his research and application of the information to represent me. Steve kept me in the loop of what to expect and all possible outcomes. Communications in all areas of my case always was helpful. Being in court and observing his abilities first hand has been an eye opener. I have had Steve handle several cases over the years. In all cases I have always been satisfied and thankful to have had Steve as my lawyer.
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  • Free Consultation 60 minutes
  • Retainer Always
Payment methods
Cash, Check, Credit Card


AVVO RATING 10.0 (Superb)

Work Experience

  • Solo Practitioner
  • Steven H. Nakano
  • 1997 - 2013
  • Managing Partner
  • Nakano, Sugihara and Bocanegra
  • 1988 - 1997
  • Managing Partner
  • Nakano and Sugihara
  • 1985 - 1989
  • Deputy Public Defender
  • Santa Clara County Public Defender's Office
  • 1981 - 1985
  • Special Investigator
  • Joint Legislative Audit Committee
  • 1980 - 1981
View all work experience


  • U of San Francisco SOL
  • JD - Juris Doctor
  • 1980
  • Univ of California Berkeley
  • BA - Bachelor of Arts
  • 1977
  • Los Altos High School
  • Diploma
  • 1973

Legal Cases

  • People versus G Salinas (ficticious name)
  • dismissal
  • People versus Wendell Leroy
  • Dismissed
  • People versus Shanandoha Garcia
  • Defendant, Shanandoha found not guilty
View all legal cases


  • Asian Pacific Bar Association of Silicon Valley
  • Past President
  • 1982 - Present

Languages Spoken

  • English

Honors and Awards

  • BV Rated
  • Martindale-Hubbell
  • 2014
  • Unsung Hero Award
  • Santa Clara County Bar Association
  • 2002


  • 2005

Speaking Engagements

  • The Forensic Investigation of Homicide
  • The Introduction of Crime Scene Reenactments as Demonstrative Evidence
  • 2008
  • 2005 Capital Case Defense Seminar
  • Creating and Using Forensic Animation as Demonstrative Evidence in Trial
  • 2005
  • Treatment Provider's Conference
  • Law as a Spiritual Practice
  • 2003
  • Santa Clara County Paralegal Association
  • crime, addiction and child molest
  • 1996
View all speaking engagements

Attorney endorsements

Received (8)
Given (5)
Endorse Steven
Criminal defense Attorney | Jan 11
Relationship: Fellow lawyer in community
"I endorse this lawyer."
Criminal defense Attorney | Oct 15
Relationship: Fellow lawyer in community
"I endorse this lawyer. I have had the opportunity to witness his work in the courtroom and have found him to be diligent and hardworking. He is well respected in the legal community."
Criminal defense Attorney | Feb 19
Relationship: Fellow lawyer in community
"Few lawyers fit the title "counselor" as well as Steven Nakano. My personal experience with Mr. Nakano is that he will gladly and enthusiastically spend the time and effort to help and support you. For me, Mr. Nakano was a mentor when I was first beginning my career in criminal law not so long ago. He is a pillar of the criminal defense community and you could not ask for a more dedicated or experienced lawyer to represent you."
Criminal defense Attorney | Jan 27
Relationship: Fellow lawyer in community
"34 years of practicing criminal law is extremely experienced. The advantage over many criminal defense attorneys is the 4 years prosecutors know that he spent as a former public defender. "They know that he knows what they know". Knowledge of both the law and procedure is excellent and evident in his pro bono contributions. His numerous client reviews are stellar. READ THEM! Do yourself a favor and schedule a consultation."
Criminal defense Attorney | Dec 20
Relationship: Fellow lawyer in community
"I wholeheartedly endorse this lawyer. A brilliant, trustworthy and highly respected attorney in the legal community."
Unknown Attorney | Dec 12
Relationship: Other
"This lawyer is knowledgeable, aggressive, efficient and talented. I endorse this lawyer."
Criminal defense Attorney | Nov 10
Relationship: Worked together on matter
"I endorse this lawyer. Steve is an ultimate professional with a calm and steady demeanor. He is liked and respected by judges, court personnel and colleagues. I have been involved in a number of cases of cases with Steve and have experienced first-hand his expertise and professional skill. I strongly endorse him."
Criminal defense Attorney | Oct 11
Relationship: Worked together on matter
"Steve is the best! Hands down, THE BEST. What makes him so good (you ask?) it is simply the fact that he combines his legal knowledge with personal counseling for his clients. It works! And, in the end, the client is served."
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Criminal defense
Criminal defense
Criminal defense
Criminal defense