California Business & Professions Code Section 6126(a) BPC: Practice of Law by Non-Member of The State Bar

1. Definition and Elements of the Crimelawyer

The California State Bar controls who is allowed to practice law in the State of California. Those who engage in the unauthorized practice of law can be charged criminally. Under California Business and Professions Code Section 6126(a) BPC, the practice of law by a non-member of the California State Bar is illegal.

To prove that a defendant is guilty of engaging in the practice of law by a non-member of the State Bar, a prosecutor would have to prove the following elements:

  1. The defendant advertised or held himself or herself out as practicing or entitled to practice law or otherwise practiced law

  2. AND the defendant is not an active member of the State Bar

  3. OR the defendant was not authorized pursuant to statute or court rule to practice law in this state.

Although the statute does not precisely define what “practicing law” entails, courts have held that rendering services in court cases or litigation, giving legal advice, or preparing legal documents or contracts all could be considered practicing law.

2. Related Offenses

Other similar or related offenses include:

  1. Practice of Law by Inactive Member of the State Bar – California Business and Professions Code Section 6126(b) BPC
  2. Unauthorized Practice of Medicine – California Business and Professions Code Section 2052(a) BPC
3. Examples

A man wants to open up a new business providing basic legal services. He posts advertisements online and in newspapers stating that he can help people with a variety of legal problems at a very low cost. The man is not a member of the California State Bar and fails to secure a single client. This man could still be charged with engaging in the unauthorized practice of law pursuant to California Business and Professions Code Section 6126(a) BPC because he advertised and held himself out to be someone authorized to practice law.

In another example, a woman has graduated from law school but has not yet taken the bar exam. A friend of hers is entering into a business contract and wants the woman to look through the contract to make sure everything looks correct. The woman reviews the contract and gives her friend advice as to certain amendments that should be made. Technically, this woman is engaging in the practice of law by a non-member of the State Bar and could be prosecuted for this offense.

4. Defenses to Practice of Law by Non-Member of the State Bar

California Business and Professions Code Section 6126 BPC does not specifically define what “practicing law” entails, and there are certain services that a non-lawyer can lawfully provide. If the defendant’s actions do not meet the definition of “practicing law” he or she may have a strong defense if charged criminally.

5. Penalties

Engaging in the practice of law by a non-member of the state bar is a misdemeanor level offense. Those convicted of this offense can be sentenced to serve up to six months in jail in addition to court fines and other conditions of probation. If the defendant has prior convictions under California Business and Professions Code Section 6126 BPC, the defendant would have to serve a minimum of 90 days in jail. This jail requirement may be excused in unusual cases where the interests of justice would be served by a lesser sentence or by imposition of a fine.

6. Criminal Defense for Practice of Law by Non-Member of the State Bar Cases

If you or someone you know have been accused of engaging in the unauthorized practice of law, it is very important that you meet with a skilled Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer right away. As a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experience, Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer Michael Kraut is highly skilled at representing clients who have been charged with committing crimes such as this. Mr. Kraut understands that charges like this may be the result of a misunderstanding or misapplication of the law, and fights hard to ensure his clients rights and interests are protected.

For more information about engaging in the practice of law by a non-member of the State Bar, and to schedule your free consultation, contact Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Michael Kraut at the Kraut Law Group located at 6255 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 1480, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at 888-334-6344 or 323-464-6453.

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