Practicing Law without Authorization
Popular television shows may portray characters lying about being a lawyer – and getting away with it. In other cases, people may not realize that not all are authorized to practice the law. Contrary to what you may have seen in dramatized series, it is illegal to practice the law if you are not authorized to do so.
Elements of the Crime
According to California Business and Professions Code 6125, it is a crime to advertise yourself as entitled to practice or fully practice the law if you are not an active member of the California State Bar. What constitutes practicing the law? Actions like these include appearing as a lawyer in court or even preparing legal documents. However, you don’t have to literally practice the law in order to be found guilty. If you market yourself or tell people that you are an authorized lawyer, but you are not an active member of the bar, then that is illegal, too. This charge can even apply to lawyers who are members of another state’s bar (however, there are some exceptions that allow for some of these lawyers to practice in California).
Punishments of the Crime
This crime can also affect lawyers who were previously active members. However, it is required for them to know that if they have been disbarred or on inactive status that they cannot practice the law. Therefore, there is a set of penalties for those who had once been a member of the bar and another for those who never have been members at all. Those who were disbarred, suspended, or forced to be inactive can face either a felony or misdemeanor conviction. The felony conviction can require up to three years in jail. People who have never been members face a misdemeanor conviction that requires up to a year in jail. On top of these jail sentences, convicted individuals will most likely face reputational penalties as well.