Whitney Bernstein

Bienert | Katzman PC

My Contact Information

Bienert | Katzman PC
San Clemente, CA
Phone 1: (949) 369-3700

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Los Angeles


Whitney is an experienced criminal defense attorney who brings her competence, compassion, and tenacity to every case and client. She has spent her career representing clients charged with felony and misdemeanor criminal offenses. She is an aggressive litigator with a track record for achieving success for her clients when the odds are against them. Whitney earned her reputation as a credible, tireless, and respected advocate during her years as a trial attorney with the Federal Defenders of San Diego and with Brooklyn Defender Services. She has tried numerous felony and misdemeanor federal and state jury trials to verdict.

In addition to Whitney’s considerable courtroom and trial experience, she has drafted and argued countless suppression and discovery violation motions, negotiated favorable dispositions for her clients, and obtained numerous dismissals of charges. Whitney takes a very hands-on approach by involving herself in all aspects of case management, investigation, interviews, negotiations, and trial preparation. She has also successfully argued before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals regarding interpretation and application of federal immigration laws.

Prior to her decision to specialize in criminal defense, she honed her research and writing skills by developing arguments in the seminal Supreme Court case on the unconstitutionality of warrantless GPS monitoring, assisting in lawsuits against the City of Philadelphia challenging the constitutionality of prison conditions, and drafting Reports and Recommendations on habeas petitions and employment discrimination claims for a U.S. Magistrate Judge in the Southern District of New York.

In addition to her actual practice, while at the Federal Defenders of San Diego, Inc., Whitney helped expand the office’s renowned training curriculum, supervised new trial attorneys, and served as a copy editor for the 2016 edition of the DFCC (Defending a Federal Criminal Case). She also continues to train federal criminal defense practitioners at the local and national level.

Prior to joining Bienert | Katzman, Whitney was a trial attorney for the Federal Defenders of San Diego, Inc. Before that, she was a trial attorney for Brooklyn Defender Services in Brooklyn, New York. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Law School earning her J.D. and simultaneously earning her Master of Science in Criminology from the University of Pennsylvania Department of Criminology. Whitney was an Associate Editor of the Journal of Law and Social Change and was awarded a Pro Bono Recognition of Outstanding Distinction for her service. As an undergraduate at Cornell University where she earned her Bachelor of Arts in Government and Sociology with a concentration in Law and Society, she graduated with Distinction in All Subjects, Dean’s List, and was an active volunteer in the local community as a firefighter and teacher.

Representative Matters

  • Represents founder of website in federal criminal prosecution for Travel Act and money laundering charges.
  • Obtained reversal of client’s conviction from Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, in which the Circuit recognized the theory that an unlawful removal of a legal permanent resident in absentia infected his subsequent removal from the United States and could not serve as the basis for future criminal prosecutions.
  • Achieved jury acquittal for client facing ten-year mandatory minimum prison sentence accused of importing methamphetamine.
  • Obtained dismissals of all charges for multiple clients charged with federal drug offenses after litigating discovery, constitutional, and suppression issues.
  • Litigated discovery, constitutional, and suppression issues in a bulk cash smuggling case and obtained favorable resolution whereby client avoided incarceration.
  • Obtained dismissal of federal charges and sealing of arrest record for clients accused of importing narcotics and transporting undocumented persons.
  • Won suppression of statements and dismissal of federal drug importation charges for a client arrested at the Port of Entry in a car full of narcotics.
  • Secured pre-trial dismissal of all charges for client accused of assaulting a federal officer.
  • Secured jury acquittal for client charged with driving under the influence.
  • Secured jury acquittal for client accused of assault.
  • Litigated motions to dismiss alleging a due process violation of an administrative misapplication of criminal law and thereby negotiated favorable dispositions for clients.
  • Argued due process violations in prior proceedings for a severely mentally ill client facing federal felony charges and obtained a misdemeanor resolution.
  • Obtained probationary sentences, thereby avoiding lengthy prison terms, for multiple clients convicted of importing narcotics and violating other federal laws.
  • Identified and secured citizenship for client facing deportation.

Other Distinctions

  • Serves on the inaugural Advisory Board to the San Diego County Probation Department Chief
  • Serves as a Lawyer Representative for the Southern District of California


  • Faculty Presenter, “Game of Phones: Fourth Amendment Defenses Against Cell Evidence,” Federal Judicial Center National Seminar for Federal Defenders, May 2018
  • Faculty Presenter, “Close Encounters of the 1324 Kind: Demystifying Alien Smuggling Cases,” 2017 Annual Criminal Justice Agency Seminar for the Southern District of California, September 2017

Prior Experience

  • Trial Attorney; Federal Defenders of San Diego, Inc.; San Diego, California (2014-2018)
  • Trial Attorney; Brooklyn Defender Services; Brooklyn, New York (2012-2014)
  • Law Clerk; Public Defender Service; Washington, DC (Summer 2011)
  • Summer Associate; O’Melveny & Myers LLP; Washington, DC (Summer 2011)
  • Judicial Extern; United States District Court for the Southern District of New York; Honorable Magistrate Theodore H. Katz; New York, New York (Summer 2010)
  • Court Advocate for Alternative-to-Incarceration Program in New York Supreme Court; The Fortune Society; New York, NY (2008-2009) 
  • Paralegal; Federal Defenders of New York, Inc.; New York, New York (2006-2008)

Practice Areas

  • Appeals
  • Crisis Management
  • Government Investigations
  • Healthcare
  • Qui Tam; Whistleblower Defense
  • Trials
  • White Collar Crime