Janet Johnson is a criminal defense attorney in Northeast Florida. She is a member of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Florida Bar Association and has been featured as a legal expert on ABC News, CNN, Headline News, First Coast News in Jacksonville and NPR radio, among others. Janet and her husband Ed live in Neptune Beach.
Can you please briefly tell us about your background?
I was born in Stamford, Connecticut. Went to undergraduate at Connecticut College, where I majored in English. After college, I worked at Rolling Stone magazine for two years, in advertising and licensing. Then I went to law school at university of Oregon. I’ve practiced criminal defense for 25 years and do legal commentary on CNN.
Why criminal law? What aspect about practicing criminal law do you enjoy the most?
I went to university of Oregon to study environmental law, but I found that my criminal law classes just clicked. I get to help people and I’ve always identified with the underdog. It’s a challenge fighting the police and the prosecution but it’s very important that someone does it. I’m honored that I get to be that someone for my clients.
Do you have any particular case(s) that you’ve worked on that stands out above others or was particularly meaningful to you?
The cases that stand out are when you achieve something that seemed impossible. That can be getting a DUI dropped when someone’s career depends on it or getting a not guilty at trial on a felony that could have meant years in prison for someone who just made a bad choice. Any time you can help someone who has a lot at stake it’s incredibly meaningful.
What types of criminal cases do you handle? What is your primary duty when handling a criminal case?
I handle all criminal matters, state and federal. We handle everything, even before the arrest. We meet with the police for interviews, which sometimes don’t even result in arrests if we get involved. So, we do everything from investigation up through trial.
What is the biggest challenge you think criminal defense attorneys face professionally?
Being a criminal defense attorney is a challenge because it’s the entire government (police and prosecutors) against you and your client. Fighting those forces is difficult and a lot of people don’t appreciate that or think of us as the bad guys. Until they need us!
What should someone know when seeking out an attorney? What should they be looking for?
When hiring a lawyer, I think you should consider referrals and reviews online. Martindale-Hubbell rates lawyers and you should look for an AV rated lawyer. And, probably most important, you should click with them when you have your consultation.
What do you enjoy most about living in here?
We actually live in Neptune beach, but I love the beaches. I can’t imagine living in Florida and not being near the ocean.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
In my spare time I run or ride our Peloton (which is amazing, by the way), I am a voracious reader, we travel a lot and try to go somewhere every year (South Africa, London, Paris to name a few). Since the coronavirus, I’ve been watching classes online from Oxford University, especially math, because I’m terrible at it.