Ryan McHugh

Awards & Memberships:

  • 9 years practice
  • SF Trial lawyers association
  • San Mateo county bar association


  • USF Law School
  • Georgetown University undergrad

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A Natural Lawyer

Some people take their time deciding what career to pursue. Others, like Summit Defense attorney Ryan McHugh were lucky to know exactly what they wanted to do from a young age. Ryan was one of those guys who was born to be a lawyer.

Ryan is a local – he grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area where he watched his father, also an attorney, run a successful law practice. He is and was the kind of guy who would challenge people to debates and then win every time. It was a foregone conclusion that Ryan would be a lawyer also.

Excelled in Law School

Ryan excelled throughout his studies and became fluent in Spanish. He received his undergraduate degree in International Economics at the Georgetown University in Washington DC which is considered to be one of the nation’s most respected schools. Next, Ryan returned to his roots in the Bay Area to earn his law degree at the University of San Francisco.

At USF, Ryan excelled at Criminal Law and Procedure classes and developed a passionate interest in criminal justice. After law school, Ryan joined the Alameda County DA’s office where he was also a standout. In a very short time, he worked his way up from handling misdemeanors such as petty theft and drunk driving cases to being entrusted with serious felonies such as domestic violence, grand theft, embezzlement and violent crimes.

Advantage of Being a Former Prosecutor

As all defense attorneys know, some overly aggressive prosecutors are more concerned with getting a conviction than with achieving a fair and just outcome. Ryan’s reputation in the DA’s office was one of extreme competence, but also of fairness. His goal as a prosecutor was always to be the most prepared attorney in the courtroom…and his preparation showed in his results.



As a former prosecutor, I know that it's easy to jump to conclusions. That's why it's extremely important to have a proactive defense team. We make sure that the police and the district attorney know that they don't have the full picture. They need to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt and often they cannot. - Attorney Ryan McHugh on Domestic Violence Defense


After four years as a prosecutor, Ryan realized that he was better suited to be a criminal defense attorney, where he could give people a second chance and help them get back on their feet. When Ryan McHugh left the DA’s office, he took with him valuable and unusual expertise – having an attorney that knows how the other side works is a huge advantage for criminal defense clients.

Success as a Criminal Defense Attorney

Today, Summit Defense clients benefit greatly from Ryan’s deep understanding of how prosecutors work. While inexperienced defense attorneys never know how much they can push, Ryan knows exactly what to do to achieve the best possible outcome for his clients. Whether through negotiation or trial, Ryan’s goal is dismissal of all charges. He know how prosecutors evaluate cases and even knows the politics in the district attorney’s office. Well known among judges and prosecutors, he holds a reputation for passionately and aggressively fighting for every client, and he strives to meet those expectations with every case he takes.


Category: Domestic violence (including both offenses and restraining order cases)

Ryan McHugh successfully defended a client charged with domestic violence offenses. The parties were in the process of divorcing, and the wife alleged that her husband had been violent towards her during an argument.


Ryan represented the husband at trial, where he was able to demonstrate that there were significant problems with the police work in the case, and was able to discredit the wife during cross-examination and show that she was inconsistent in her evidence.


The trial resulted in a hung jury, with 9 jurors voting for a ‘not guilty’ verdict. Following that result, the DA dismissed all charges against Ryan’s client and did not re-file.

DUI/traffic cases

Ryan was successful in having a client’s 12-year-old DUI charges dismissed. Another attorney had advised the client to not worry about the old charge that he was concerned about, but he then consulted Ryan, who looked into the matter further.


Ryan discovered that there was an arrest warrant for his client. He had the warrant recalled, and filed a motion to dismiss because the case was so old, and the police had taken no action in all that time. The DA agreed with Ryan’s argument that it would be unfair for the client to have to try to answer a charge from so long ago, and the case was dismissed.

Theft and other property offenses, such as embezzlement

Ryan represented a lady who was employed as a house cleaner, and was charged with burglary after stealing a gold ring from one of the homes she cleaned. The evidence against her was strong, but Ryan was able to contact the owner of the property and negotiate a settlement in the case.


Ryan was able to explain his client’s emotional and mental health issues, and the owner indicated that he would be satisfied with the return of the property. The DA accepted that this was a satisfactory result in the circumstances, and the case was dismissed with no conviction recorded against Ryan’s client.

Sex crimes (including anything from indecent exposure, to child pornography and rape cases)

In challenging circumstances, Ryan succeeded in keeping a client who committed a sex offense out of jail. Ryan’s client was convicted of indecent exposure after admitting to masturbating on a nude beach in front of people. Due to a previous offense, this client would ordinarily have faced jail time, mandatory registration as a sex offender and, because he was a non-citizen, possible deportation.


Ryan was able to negotiate with the DA to achieve a sentence that kept his client out of jail, and also avoided mandatory registration. Instead of jail, Ryan’s client was required to enter into a year of sex offender therapy, with regular reporting, in place of a 90-day jail term. Because Ryan was able to keep his client out of jail, he also avoided the risk of deportation and the client was able to remain in the United States with his family.

Drug offenses (can be state or Federal matters)

Ryan represented a client who was facing felony drug charges after being arrested on suspicion of possessing several illegal substances for sale, including GHB, Rohypnol, and cocaine. Through conversations with the judge and negotiations with the DA, Ryan was able to have his client referred to Community Court.

In Community Court, his client was required to return clean urine samples for 6 months and to complete community service. After meeting these requirements, the case against Ryan’s client was dismissed entirely with no conviction recorded.