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The Law Office of Joel Defabio The Law Office of Joel Defabio
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Joel DeFabio

Joel  DeFabio Photo
Joel DeFabio
Principal Attorney


  • New Jersey Bar 1980
  • US District Court for the District of New Jersey 1980
  • Florida Bar 1980
  • US District Court for the Southern District of Florida 1981
  • US District Court for the Southern District of Florida Trial Bar 1984
  • US Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit 1988
  • US District Court for the Middle District of Florida 1989
  • US Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit 1989
  • US Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit 1989
  • United States Supreme Court 1992
  • US District Court for the Northern District of Florida 2005


Get to Know Joel DeFabio

Attorney Joel DeFabio has represented clients in Miami, Florida, and across the US against all types of federal charges since 1980. Throughout 35+ years of practice, he has established himself as one of the country's most preeminent criminal defense attorneys.

Joel Defabio’s trial work is unsurpassed and has resulted in over 50 federal jury trials resulting in “Not Guilty” verdicts in cases including the acquittal of his client during the national headline-making "Liberty City 7" homegrown terrorism case. This was the first not guilty verdict in a federal terrorism case since 911.

In the early 1980s, he helped shaped the criminal justice system in South Florida with his work during the "Cocaine Cowboys" era. Attorney DeFabio relentlessly seeks the best possible outcomes for his clients while protecting their interests, property, rights and freedom. He draws from the knowledge and experienced gained from defending more than 600 federal cases.

Joel DeFabio graduated from Newark Academy, the nation’s oldest and most prominent college preparatory high school, in 1972. In 1976, he graduated from Claremont McKenna College which is ranked in the top 10 liberal arts colleges in the country. Attorney DeFabio earned his Juris Doctor from the University of Miami Law School in 1980, and while there received the Book Award in Advanced Criminal Procedure.

His entire career has been dedicated to upholding the rights of the criminally accused. DeFabio started his legal career as an Assistant Public Defender with Miami-Dade County. Over a period of 40 years, he quickly rose through the ranks from juvenile to misdemeanor, and then to the felony division where his not guilty trial verdict record was unsurpassed. In 1984, he began his career as a private attorney where he has devoted himself to criminal defense.

During his career, Attorney DeFabio has represented clients charged with all types of federal and state crimes, and he has defended more than 700 federal cases and thousands of state cases. He has also authored a number of criminal appellate briefs and has argued the merits of these briefs before the appellate courts.

His professionalism and outstanding legal and trial skills have resulted in recognition from judges, his peers, and numerous associations and organizations in the industry. He earned the prestigious honor of being selected for inclusion in The National Trial Lawyers: Top 100 and is rated 9.6 Superb by Avvo, and is Nationally Ranked Top Ten Attorney by the National Academy of Criminal Defense Attorneys.

Additionally, he was chosen by the Daily Business Review as one of the "Most Effective Lawyers" in Miami for the specialization of Criminal Justice in 2008, and the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers bestowed the Rodney Thaxton "Against All Odds" Award upon him in 2007. Click here to read about Attorney DeFabio's numerous accolades.

Outside of the office, Joel is the proud father of two successful adult children. His oldest child, Lauren, graduated Suma Cum Lauda from UF and was at the top of her class at UM Law School. She is a practicing attorney in Miami with her husband, Michael Flanagan. His son, Phil, graduated from UF School of Veterinary Medicine and is a practicing veterinarian who also shares his father’s love for water sports (surfing, fishing, and boating) and snowboarding. Over the years they have traveled throughout Central and South America and North America in pursuit of the perfect wave.

Awards and Recognitions:

  • Recipient of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers Rodney Thaxton "Against All Odds" Award, 2007
  • Nominee for the Daily Business Review's "Most Effective Lawyers" award in Criminal Justice, 2008
  • Selected for The National Trial Lawyers: Top 100, 2013
  • Rated 9.7 Superb by Avvo
  • Nationally Ranked Top Ten Attorney by the National Academy of Criminal Defense Attorneys.

Professional Associations:

  • Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Member
  • The Federal Bar Association
  • National Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys


  • Juris Doctor University of Miami Law School- Graduate School 1980
  • Bachelor Degree Claremont McKenna College- College 1976
  • High School Newark Academy- High School 1972


  • More than 39 years of experience
  • Former Miami-Dade County Assistant Public Defender
  • Has defended thousands of cases at the Juvenile, Misdemeanor, and Felony levels in Miami-Dade County since 1980
  • Defended more than 700 federal cases
  • Represented clients in more than 150 jury trials
  • Has practiced law exclusively in Miami-Dade County since 1980

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