In California, attorneys can earn certification as a Criminal Law Specialist by the State Bar of California's Board of Legal Specialization (CBLS). Board-certified attorneys include criminal defense attorneys in private practice, public defenders, or prosecutors. These attorneys work within the criminal justice system at the local, state, or federal level.
Attorneys with this designation can identify themselves as "certified specialists" in California for the specialty practice area of Criminal Law. Earning the certification awarded by the CBLS requires that the attorney:
Attorneys in both private practice and in the public sector can seek certification. Board-certified attorneys in criminal law work at every level of the criminal justice system including as private criminal defense attorneys, public defenders, or as prosecutors.
Prosecutors in California work at the state level (in the Attorney General's Office) at the county level (in the District Attorney's Office) or at the local level as a City Attorney. Federal prosecutors work in the various divisions of the United States Attorneys' Office.
For purposes of the certification program, the term "criminal law" is defined to include both the defense and prosecution of persons accused of crimes in federal and state court, and minor children subject to wardship proceedings in juvenile court based on allegations of their criminal misconduct.
The definition of criminal law also includes both trial and appellate advocacy, and other ancillary proceedings such as civil and criminal forfeiture proceedings.
The standards for certification in criminal law should be read in conjunction with the rules Rules Governing the State Bar of California Program for Certifying Legal Specialists.
Requirements for certification generally include a showing of criminal trial practice task requirements. The showing of substantial involvement in the practice area of criminal defense relates to the five years prior to submitting the application.
Task requirements include a showing that the attorney was the lead counsel of record in certain types of proceedings including felony jury trials, additional jury trials, and additional criminal matters, hearings, petitioners of answers in extraordinary writ proceedings, and appeals. In some cases, the substantial involvement showing can be made through one of the following:
The attorney must meet certain educational requirements for certification within the three years prior to application for topics related to criminal law which can include substantive criminal law and procedure; writs, appeals, and ancillary proceedings; evidence; and trial advocacy.
The attorney must also submit to independent inquiry and review requirements for certification. Requirements include recommendations from lawyers, judges, co-counsel and opposing counsel.
In addition to the CBLS, the National Board of Trial Advocacy also designates California attorneys as specialists in criminal trial law.
Although CBLS does not currently have a specific legal specialty designation for DUI defense law, the National College of DUI Defense has been accredited by the American Bar Association to designate attorneys as a California board-certified specialist in DUI Defense Law.
In addition, several other programs throughout the country have been accredited by the ABA to grant board certification in criminal law and related areas of practice: