Crystina M. O’Brien


Crystina (Kowalczyk) O’Brien is a zealous trial attorney.  She loves a challenge and embraces difficult cases with tough issues.  What makes Crystina stand out is her passion for her clients and for practicing law.   She puts clients first and appreciates the trust that they place in her when they choose her to defend them in a criminal trial, DUI, traffic ticket, military courts-martial or separation board, divorce, child support, custody or adoption.  When you hire Ms. O’Brien, you get over 20 years of legal experience on your side with the advice and counsel of an intelligent, ethical, practical and compassionate lawyer.   She is a fighter who knows how to win – but she also knows the value of a good compromise.

Crystina O’Brien began her legal career as an Army Judge Advocate General Officer (JAG).  She has won military cases and Courts-Martial in the United States, Korea, Italy, Germany, and Kosovo.  She represented soldiers and worked at the highest levels of the Army as both an attorney for the Army leadership and a Defense Attorney representing the rights of soldiers.  While stationed at the Pentagon, she was a member of the Army’s Chief of Staff’s Office and was a member of the Department of the Army Privacy Act Board.  As a member of the Judge Advocate of the Army’s staff she reviewed the granting and denials of FOIA and Privacy Act requests, assisted in FOIA litigation, and helped with other administrative law matters.

Criminal and Military Law

After 10 years of Active Duty as a JAG, Crystina entered the Army Reserves as a Major and served as a Senior Defense Counsel.  In her civilian life, Crystina worked as an Assistant Federal Public Defender (AFPD) in Pittsburgh.  As an AFPD, she litigated numerous jury trials and evidentiary motions in the Western District of Pennsylvania.  One of her first serious federal jury trials resulted in a post-trial dismissal of charges that her client engaged in the illegal transportation and use of forged securities.   The Judge found the client not guilty after the jury returned a guilty verdict due to persistent advocacy and Crystina never giving up.  Another of her successes came in a carjacking trial which was reversed on appeal due to her insistance concerning her client’s right to present eye witness identification testimony at trial.  This case, United States vs. Brownlee, is still cited as an example of the level and detail of testimony that a defendant has a right to present at trial when eyewitness identification is at issue.  In addition to defending serious drug trafficking and bank robbery cases, she also defended some unique and high profile trials in the Western District of Pennsylvania.  Her cases included an alleged anthrax mail hoax, an alleged member of a traveling prostitution ring (the New Orleans “Madame” in the case was the subject of a TV movie), and a companion case to the Tommy Chong (of Cheech and Chong) “head-shop” prosecution.

Since beginning her legal career in 1993, her military experience ranged from being appointed as a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney, in Augusta Georgia, where she assisted with prosecuted civilians who committed crimes on Fort Gordon, to being the primary intelligence law and oversight officer for two military intelligence brigades.  Her duty assignments included serving at the Pentagon as a Freedom of Information and Privacy Act advisor and two assignments as a criminal defense attorney.   In her last assignment, Crystina was the Senior Defense Counsel to the 173d Airborne Brigade and served soldiers in all of Italy, and parts of Europe,to include Kosovo, Bosnia, Turkey and Greece.  She deployed to Kosovo to handle the court-martial of a soldier accused of violating orders.

In addition to being licensed in Ohio since 1993, in 2006 Crystina took the Virginia Bar Exam and settled down in Virginia.  Her first position was at the Hampton Public Defender’s office.   There she spent 6 years at the state-level defending citizens who cannot afford a defense and learning the ‘ins and outs’ of Virginia criminal law.  Being a busy public defender allowed her to become very familiar with Virginia criminal law and the legal community in the Hampton Roads area.  She considers the Hampton Roads area her new home and is proud to have an office in historic downtown Hampton.


  • Admitted to the Virginia Bar and the Supreme Court of Virginia – 2006
  • Admitted to the Ohio Bar since 1993 (inactive)
  • Admitted to the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces– 1994
  • Admitted to Federal Court in the Western District of Pennsylvania -2002
  • Admitted to the Supreme Court of the United States – 2004
  • Admitted to the Federal District Court, for the Eastern District of Virginia – 2012

Member of:

  • Hampton Bar Association
  • National Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys
  • Virginia State Bar Association
  • Virginia Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys
  • Greatter Pennisula Womens Bar Association