David G. Cohen
David G. Cohen founded the Cohen Defense Group in 2017 with the retirement of noted Placer County Criminal Defense Lawyer, Mark A. Berg. David had joined the Law Offices of Mark A. Berg in 1996. Mr. Cohen is a certified Criminal Law Specialist by the California Board of Legal Specialization and has been involved in representing defendants in felony and misdemeanor cases in California for over 20 years. His current caseload in the firm includes felony cases, “three strike” cases, drug crimes, and homicides. Moreover, Mr. Cohen is the firm’s primary attorney driving under the influence cases (DUIs).
Mr. Cohen has been an active member of the Placer County Bar Association, where he served as President in 2004. Mr. Cohen has served as a mentoring attorney and judge for the Peer Court program. Prior to joining the firm, Mr. Cohen was in private practice in San Francisco serving primarily as a court-appointed motion expert on homicide cases.
Mr. Cohen graduated from Northwestern University in 1991 with a Bachelor of Science in Speech. While at Northwestern, he served as a Defense Advocate for students charged with crimes in the University Hearing and Appellate System. Mr. Cohen graduated from the University of California, Hastings College of Law in 1994, and tried his first criminal case as a certified law student. Mr. Cohen also received awards for oral argument and written brief in Moot Court competition. He was admitted to practice in 1995.
Mr. Cohen was born August 23, 1969 in San Jose, CA. Education: Northwestern University, Evanston, IL (B.S. in Speech, 1991); University of California, Hastings College of Law, San Francisco (J.D., 1994). Member: State Bar of California, Placer County Bar Association (member, 1996 to present; Board of Directors, 2001 – 2005; 2004 President), California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, California DUI Lawyers, National College for DUI Defense.
Alison L. Cohen
Alison L. Cohen joined the Cohen Defense Group at its inception with the retirement of her former employer, the Law Offices of Mark A. Berg, where she had represented clients since 1997. Alison has handled a variety of cases, misdemeanor and felony, including domestic violence, drug court and appellate work. In 2001 she began to practice exclusively in the juvenile delinquency courtroom and has handled all of the firm’s juvenile cases since then. While with the firm she has tried approximately 40 cases to verdict.
Prior to joining the firm, Ms. Cohen worked for the Sonoma County Public Defender’s Office, the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, the Homeless Advocacy Project in San Francisco,’ Battered Women’s Alternatives in Martinez, and The Family Law Center in San Rafael.
Born in Stockton, California, Ms. Cohen received a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California at Santa Cruz. She graduated from Golden Gate University School of Law in 1996 where she was on the Dean’s list and earned certificates in litigation and public interest law. She was admitted to practice in 1997 and is an active member of the State Bar. She has been a member of the Placer County Bar Association since moving to Placer County in 1997.
Amber L. Zehrung
Amber L. Zehrung joined the Cohen Defense Group at its inception with the retirement of her former employer, the Law Offices of Mark A. Berg, where she had represented clients since 2006. Ms. Zehrung’s caseload includes a wide range of felony and misdemeanor cases including drugs, thefts, domestic violence, strikes, and mental health cases. She has done extensive motion work and has tried a variety of jury trials. In addition to her cases, she receives appointments from the Courts to represent individuals with appellate and writ issues. She is
the firm’s primary attorney who handles clearing your record of convictions, also known as “expungements.”
Prior to joining the firm, Ms. Zehrung was with the Placer County Public Defender’s Office. Due to her experience with the Public Defender’s Office, Ms. Zehrung has many connections with a variety of programs, including drug rehabilitation programs and domestic violence programs. She also has knowledge about mental health facilities and Alta Regional, and has worked with a variety of Social Workers in order to assist her clients with their needs.
Ms. Zehrung received a Bachelor of Science in Political Science with an emphasis in Pre-Law from California State University, Chico. While in College she worked as a paralegal for a private criminal defense firm in Butte County. In 2002, Ms. Zehrung graduated from McGeorge School of Law.
Born in Chico, California in 1974; attended Butte College (A.A. 1994); Paralegal Certified 1995; California State University, Chico (B.S. 1997) McGeorge School of Law (Oral Advocacy Honors) (J.D.2002); State Bar of California, Placer County Bar Association member.
Lauren E. Otto
Lauren E. Otto joined the Cohen Defense Group at its inception with the retirement of her former employer, the Law Offices of Mark A. Berg, where she had represented clients since 2013 after graduating from Golden Gate University School of Law in San Francisco in 2012. Ms. Otto handles a wide variety of cases including drug possessions, petty thefts, burglaries, assaults and batteries, and California Vehicle Code violations. Ms. Otto also represents individuals fighting restraining orders.
Originally from Altoona, Pennsylvania, Ms. Otto holds two bachelor degrees from West Chester University of Pennsylvania where she specialized in Communication Studies and Vocal Performance. At Golden Gate University School of Law, Ms. Otto was a recipient of the Dean’s Merit full-tuition scholarship and a member of the Honors Lawyering Program. As a second-year law student, she worked full-time at the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office where she successfully argued multiple motions and assisted in a number of trials.
During law school, Ms. Otto was a writer and editor for Law Review where she wrote about 4th Amendment Search and Seizure issues, arguing for broader defendant rights. She was actively involved in the Litigation Center where she was a member of Moot Court Board as well as numerous trial advocacy and mock trial teams. Her efforts in criminal litigation earned her a specialized certificate in litigation, awards in Litigation Professionalism, and recognition as her graduating class’s Outstanding Criminal Litigator. Ms. Otto was admitted to the State Bar of California in 2012 and is also an active member of the Placer County Bar Association.
Michael P. Dudley
Michael P. Dudley joined the Cohen Defense Group at its inception with the retirement of his former employer, the Law Offices of Mark A. Berg, where he had been affiliated since 2004 and joined the firm as an associate attorney in 2014. Mr. Dudley has been involved in all aspects of criminal defense from arraignment through jury trial. He has over 13 years of experience handling felony and misdemeanor cases involving prior strikes, drug sales, residential burglary, identity theft, elder abuse, assault with a deadly weapon, and domestic violence. In addition, Mr. Dudley is the primary attorney in the firm representing defendants in Sacramento County cases.
Prior to becoming an attorney, Mr. Dudley completed an internship with a local criminal defense attorney while attending college. In 1996 he joined the Army National Guard and completed a six year commitment with an honorable discharge. In 1999 Mr. Dudley graduated from Appalachian State University with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and a Bachelor of Science in Criminal justice.
Mr. Dudley also worked for the Sacramento District Attorney’s Office for two years during law school. As a certified law student, Mr. Dudley handled over one thousand misdemeanor arraignments and plea negotiations. In 2003 Mr. Dudley graduated from McGeorge School of Law. Mr. Dudley was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1976. Education: University of North Carolina, Appalachian State University, Boone, NC (B.A. & B.S., 1999); University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law, Sacramento, CA (J.D., 2003). Member: State Bar of California, Placer County Bar Association, California Public Defender’s Association.
Barry Zimmerman joined the Cohen Defense Group at its inception with the retirement of his former employer, the Law Offices of Mark A. Berg, where he had been affiliated for over 20 years. In 2014 Mr. Zimmerman merged his criminal law practice with the Law Offices of Mark A. Berg and became a member of the firm. Mr. Zimmerman has been a Criminal Law Specialist, certified by the State Bar of California since 2002. Mr. Zimmerman has been a member of the State Bar of California for over 25 years. He has tried over 30 cases to jury verdict in all types of criminal law cases from misdemeanor driving under the influence to drug offenses, theft crimes, domestic violence, gang cases, sex cases, and murder cases. Mr. Zimmerman is the firm’s primary attorney handling sexual crimes.
In 2013, Mr. Zimmerman won the release of an inmate serving a life sentence after a contested hearing pursuant to recent changes in California’s Three Strike Law. Mr. Zimmerman has served as a President of the Placer County Bar Association. He has also argued a landmark “shaken baby” case before the California Supreme Court.
Mr. Zimmerman was born in Brooklyn, New York, April 26, 1961. He was admitted to the California Bar in 1987. Education: University of California, Santa Barbara (B.A., 1983); Golden Gate University School of Law, San Francisco (J.D., 1986). Mr. Zimmerman has been recognized as a Northern California Super Lawyer, he is a member of California Attorneys for Criminal Justice; and a member of the Placer County Bar Association.
Drew C. Wagner-Weir
Drew C. Wagner-Weir joined the firm in July of 2016. He graduated from the McGeorge School of Law and became a member of the State Bar of California in 2015. He is the firm’s primary misdemeanor attorney where he handles a wide variety of cases including drug possession, petty theft, battery, and driving under the influence.
Mr. Wagner-Weir focused on criminal justice in law school. He interned with the Sacramento Office of the Public Defender twice and participated in the defense of juveniles and adults charged with misdemeanor offenses. He also co-authored an article on California’s Three Strikes Law which was published in the California Initiative Review, an online journal published by McGeorge. Mr. Wagner-Weir was the recipient of the Dean’s Scholarship and graduated with Great Distinction as a member of the Order of the Coif.
Prior to law school, Mr. Wagner-Weir graduated from the California Maritime Academy and spent four years sailing in the Pacific Ocean and the Bering Sea as a Deck Officer.
Zach Merliss joined the Cohen Defense Group in May, 2017. He graduated from the University of Southern California School of Law and became a member of the California bar in 2016. Prior to joining the firm, Mr. Merliss was a legal fellow at the Federal Public Defender’s Office in the District of Nevada, and also an active member of an improvisational comedy club. Currently, he defends a wide variety of misdemeanor cases, such as drug possession, petty theft, assault and battery, and driving under the influence. During law school, Mr. Merliss gained exposure to the prosecution side of the criminal justice system, especially in misdemeanor matters, when he interned for the Clark County District Attorney’s Office in Las Vegas, conducting misdemeanor trials and felony preliminary hearings. He was also an avid participant of the Hale Moot Court Honors Program and a strong advocate for workers and the disabled, interning at Service Employees International Union and Disability Rights California. He also obtained an academic achievement award for receiving the highest grade in the course “Criminal Law at the Margins,” which primarily analyzed how the criminal justice system affects marginalized groups in society, such as the poor and disabled.
Mr. Merliss was born on May 15, 1989 in Chico, CA. Education: UCLA, Los Angeles, CA (B.A. Political Science, Minor in Film, Television, & Digital Media 2012); University of Southern California School of Law, Los Angeles, CA (J.D., 2012). Member: State Bar of California, Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society.