Skip to main content

Katherine Laurie Schwinghammer

also known as "Kathy" Schwinghammer, "Kathe" Schwinghammer

This attorney is not accepting clients.

Reason: Government Attorney

About me

I am a criminal defense attorney. The only type of cases I will accept are criminal defense cases and DUI defense cases. 

I have extensive experience handling DUI/driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, public intoxication, theft, domestic violence, assault, battery, vandalism, Vehicle Code violations, and many other types of criminal cases.  For the first three years that I was licensed as an attorney, I worked for the Public Defender's Office in Santa Barbara County. I handled a lot of cases in those three years and it was an incredible learning experience.

Since 2009 I have been in private practice. I want to put my knowledge and skills and talent to work for you, the people who hire me.

I have actual trial experience, trying criminal defense and DUI cases. There are a lot of attorneys in California who want to represent you in your criminal or DUI case, but some of those attorneys have never even tried a single case. I have successfully resolved many, many hundreds of cases. I have set dozens and dozens of cases for trial, but only nine of those have gone to trial.  (As of April 2013)  The rest received very good settlement offers or even dismissals on the eve of trial, so we didn't go to trial. Of the nine cases I took to trial, six were jury trials, and three were "court trials" with a Judge only, no jury.  Of those nine cases, five resulted in Not Guilty verdicts, Not Guilty of all charges.  One case resulted in a Hung Jury/Mistrial, where the jury could not agree on a unanimous verdict.

If you might consider taking your case all the way to trial, ask potential attorneys how many cases they have tried and what their "stats" are. Many attorneys will probably tell you that they "don't keep track," but perhaps the reason they don't keep track is because they don't win a high percentage of their cases?  That is, if they've even ever taken a case to jury trial as a defense attorney. I think there is a big difference between trying cases as a prosecutor and trying cases as a defense attorney.  Defending people is all I've ever done, through my whole career as an attorney. It's what I want to do.

A client told me recently that he had been trying to decide between hiring me and hiring a defense attorney who used to be a prosecutor. "That other attorney, he used to be a proseuctor, so he knows all the prosecutors, and they're his friends." The client thought that was a good thing -- that other attorney, the former prosecutor, he's friends with the current prosecutors. But is that a good thing?  The former prosecutor, he's used to prosecuting cases, and he's going to look at your case as a prosecutor and tell you why he thinks you're guilty. I'll look at your case from the other perspective and tell you where I think we might be able to find some flaws in the prosecution's case.  The former prosecutor probably cares what his old co-workers think of him, and will they still like him if he really *fights* for his client?  I wouldn't want an attorney who might have conflicted loyalty like that.  Defending people is what I do. Prosecutors who've been in court against me know that I will do whatever I can to fight for my client. My loyalty is to you.    

If you are facing criminal charges, whether it is your first experience with the criminal justice system or not, there is a strong chance that you might be feeling scared and confused -- and I can help you. I have the experience, knowledge and desire to fight for you and protect your rights.  I will provide you with an aggressive defense, and I will work hard to minimize the disruption to your life.  If you are my client, I will keep you informed, I will explain things fully, and I will be personally available to you as long as your case lasts.    

Whether you retain me to represent you or not, I hope that you obtain the very best result possible for the circumstances you are in.


Practice areas


  1. DUI & DWI: 65%
    10 years
  2. Criminal Defense: 35%
    10 years



Free consultation (60 minutes)

Payment types:

Cash, Check, Credit card

Attorney endorsements

14 total 

Are you an attorney? Endorse this lawyer

  • Thomas John Greenberg

    Kathy Schwinghammer is an excellent attorney. Kathy took on the head deputy district attorney and walked her client out the door with an acquittal. I have known Kathy for several years and it is a privilege to endorse her. Kathy brings her military training to the fight in criminal defense and it shows in the zealous manner in which she defends her cases. She is thorough, intelligent and has a real presence in the courtroom. If I were arrested, I would want Kathy in my corner.


    Thomas Greenberg Criminal defense Attorney
    Relationship: Fellow lawyer in community

  • William Carlos Makler

    I endorse Kathy Schwinghammer's work. I have seen her in action at trial and was VERY impressed. Not only was her client found "not guilty" but that trial was sandwiched between two other trials where her clients were found "not guilty". She is obviously a very effective, energetic, and compassionate advocate for her clients.


    William Makler DUI and DWI Attorney
    Relationship: Fellow lawyer in community

Contact info

Katherine Schwinghammer, Attorney at Law - SLO CONFERENCE ROOM ONLY

4251 S. Higuera St., Suite 800
(no mail at this address, please)
San Luis Obispo, CA

Katherine Schwinghammer, Attorney at Law - PRIMARY OFFICE ADDRESS

1248 E. Grand Ave.
Suite B
Arroyo Grande, CA, 93420



We have not found any instances of professional misconduct for this lawyer.
Avvo contributions
Legal answers
Award nameGrantorDate granted
Top 100 Trial Lawyers - Criminal DefenseThe National Trial Lawyers2014
Rising Star - Criminal Defense LawSuperLawyers2013
Top Attorney - Outstanding Young LawyerLos Angeles Magazine2013
5-Star ReviewsYelp2013
Top Women AttorneysLos Angeles Magazine2013
Dean's Achievement Award in Advanced Criminal DefenseThe University of Texas School of Law2005
Excellence in Public Interest Award - for work with TCAITexas Law Fellowship2004
Work experience
TitleCompany nameDuration
AttorneyLaw Office of Katherine Schwinghammer2009 - Present
Deputy Public DefenderSanta Barbara County Public Defender's Office2006 - 2009
Association namePosition nameDuration
San Luis Obispo County Bar Association, Criminal Law SectionMember2010 - Present
California Public Defenders Associationmember2007 - Present
American Bar Association, Criminal Justice SectionMemberN/A
Legal cases
Case nameOutcome
People v. J.DUI/DWI dismissed
People v. D.S.DUI/DWI w/PRIOR dismissed, plead to driving w/o DL
People v. A.C.C.DUI/DWI case DISMISSED after hearing
See all legal cases 
Publication nameTitleDate
American Journal of Criminal LawFingerprint Identification: How the "Gold Standard" of Evidence Could Be Worth Its Weight2005
School nameMajorDegreeGraduated
University of Texas School of LawLawJD - Juris Doctor2005
Texas A&M University, Corpus ChristiEnglishBA - Bachelor of Arts2002
Speaking engagements
Conference nameTitleDate
Monthly Criminal Defense Section MeetingToday's Digital Projector Technology and How to Use It2011
TCDLA Forensics CLE weekendThe History of Fingerprint Identification2004
Monthly CLE lunchProblems in Fingerprint Identification2004
Criminal Law Discussion PanelCrime Victims Rights Legislation2004
Crime Victims' InstituteCrime Victims Rights Legislation2004