Michael Harkness Attorney in San Diego

Michael C. Harkness, Criminal Defense Attorney

After receiving the highest individual award of “Best Advocate” at the nation’s most prestigious law school mock trial competition in 1994, I realized that I wanted to spend my career advancing my clients’ interests in the courtroom.  To achieve this goal, I committed the first two years of my legal practice to representing indigent defendants at the San Diego County Public Defender’s Office, where I was fortunate to have handled several dozen trials—with much success, often defying conventional wisdom.  I have been a fixture in the San Diego courts ever since, having established my own criminal defense firm in 1997.

In 1999 – just four years out of law school – I won an outright acquittal for a client charged with double murder and kidnapping, who had been facing a mandatory sentence of life without parole.  This victory cemented my reputation as a formidable advocate, proving myself capable of navigating the most sophisticated of criminal cases—a quality that now benefits each and every one of my clients.

I am proud to have earned the credibility and respect of both judges and prosecutors, which is vital when it comes to negotiating favorable plea bargains for the client who does not want to go to trial.  I am also honored that my peers have repeatedly recognized me as one of “San Diego County’s Top Criminal Law Attorneys”  (as reported in the San Diego Daily Transcript, 2010, 2012 and 2013).

Although many of my clients are not strangers to the criminal justice system, over the years I have developed a niche for successfully handling cases for first-time offenders. My compassion for the “common man” who, for whatever reason, ends up sitting beside me at the defense table, enables me to effectively humanize his plight. Whether persuading a jury or a judge, or negotiating deals with prosecutors, I have the proven ability to convey empathy for good people in bad situations—regularly leading to outstanding results.

I received my B.A. from Miami University (Ohio).  I earned my law degree from California Western School of Law in San Diego, where I won American Jurisprudence Awards for Advanced Criminal Law and Procedure, Current Issues in Constitutional Law, and Courtroom Advocacy.  I am admitted to practice law throughout the State of California and in the United States District Court, Southern District of California.  I am a member of the San Diego County Bar Association, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and the San Diego Criminal Defense Bar Association.


California Western School
of Law, J.D. (1995)

Miami University (Ohio),
B.A. (1991)


Law Offices of Michael C. Harkness, APLC (1997–Present)

San Diego County Office of the Public Defender (1995-1997)

Certification & Recognition

Recognized by the San Diego Daily Transcript as a Top Attorney in 2010, 2011 and 2013.


State Bar of California

United States District Court, Southern District of California