Dana Nessel


Dana Nessel has 20 years of litigation experience in all areas of criminal law, both as a long-time prosecutor and as a defense attorney. Ms. Nessel has conducted hundreds of felony and misdemeanor trials, including over a hundred capital cases, and dozens of homicides.  Thanks to her experience, Dana is considered by many to be one of the top criminal attorneys in Michigan.

As a Wayne County Assistant Prosecutor, Dana Nessel was specially assigned to a number of elite units.

In the Child and Family Abuse Bureau, Dana Nessel vertically prosecuted child sexual and physical abuse cases, including internet crimes, child homicides, and major offenses involving child witnesses. She was forensically trained in child interview techniques and procedures. Thanks to this experience, Ms. Nessel is well versed child neglect and abuse cases.  Ms. Nessel specialized in “shaken baby” cases involving severe traumatic brain injuries. Ms. Nessel also handled domestic homicides, assaults, assault and battery charges, criminal sexual conduct cases and incidents of aggravated stalking.

Dana Nessel was also specially assigned to the Police Misconduct Unit, where she was assigned the task of investigating and prosecuting the fatal and non-fatal shooting of civilians by police officers as well as all in-custody deaths that occurred in the local lock-up units and county jail of Wayne County. Ms. Nessel conducted on-scene investigations and prosecuted officers found to have committed criminal violations. Ms. Nessel also performed training sessions for all Wayne County police departments on the use of force and proper prisoner detention procedures.

Ms. Nessel also received assignments to the Auto Theft Unit, where she vertically prosecuted major auto theft cases, including chop shops, retagging, vehicle cloning, VIN alterations, identity theft, and prosecutions under the RICO criminal enterprise statute. Ms. Nessel also was picked for a joint task force with auto insurance companies and the Michigan Secretary of State for law and ordinance construction and the investigation of “scrapping” cases.

In 2005, Dana Nessel left the prosecutor’s office to enter the world of private practice, where she has become renowned as a staunch defender of constitutional rights. In her criminal practice, Ms. Nessel has vigorously defended hundreds of criminal cases, from petty theft to first degree murder. Dana Nessel’s extensive knowledge of the law and her personal experience with the judges, prosecutors and police officers in the area makes her ideally suited to best advise her clients on their concerns, and to know how to approach their cases. As a result, she is able to achieve results unmatched by most attorneys’ practicing in the area, making her one of the top criminal defense attorneys in Michigan.

While Ms. Nessel’s practice has a heavy emphasis on criminal defense, she also handles civil rights actions, family law matters, and general tort litigation. Ms. Nessel is recognized as one of the premier litigators of LGBT issues in Michigan. In 2010, Ms. Nessel brought the matter of Harmon v. Davis, in which a Michigan court, for the first time, held that a non-biological parent in a same-sex couple could establish custodial rights to the couple’s children. Ms. Nessel also successfully petitioned for the first second-parent adoptions for same-sex couples in Oakland and Wayne Counties. She has defended and acquired exonerations for scores of defendants wrongly targeted for prosecution based on sexual orientation and has represented various clients terminated from employment based upon sexual orientation or gender identity. In 2012, she spearheaded the precedent-setting case, DeBoer v. Snyder, which challenged the bans on adoption and marriage for same-sex couples in Michigan. Deboer was later consolidated with its affiliated Sixth Circuit cases into Obergefell v. Hodges in the United States Supreme Court. This landmark case legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. In 2014, Ms. Nessel, along with her co-counsel on DeBoer, was honored with the “Champion of Justice” award by the Michigan State Bar Association. In 2015, she was designated as “Woman of the Year” by Michigan Lawyers Weekly. Ms. Nessel is also an officer for Fair Michigan, an organization dedicated to the equal protection of women and LGBT residents under the Michigan Constitution.

dana law badge