California Business & Professions Code Section 6126(b) BPC: Practice Of Law By An Inactive Member Of The State Bar

1. Definition and Elements of the Crimestate bar

The California State Bar takes measures to ensure that those licensed to practice law abide by strict ethical and professional standards. Those who violate State Bar rules may be suspended from practicing law or even disbarred. Practicing while on an involuntary inactive status is a criminal offense under California Business and Professions Code Section 6126(b) BPC and can result in felony charges.

A prosecutor must prove the following elements in order to establish that a defendant engaged in the practice of law by an inactive member of the State Bar:

  1. The defendant had been involuntarily enrolled as an inactive member of the State Bar, or had been suspended from membership, or had been disbarred, or had been resigned from the State Bar with charges pending.
  2. AND the defendant practiced or attempted to practice law or advertised or held himself or herself out as practicing or entitled to practice law.
  3. OR the defendant has been involuntarily enrolled as an inactive member of the State Bar
  4. AND the defendant knowingly thereafter practiced or attempted to practice law or advertised or held himself or herself out as practicing or entitled to practice law.
2. Related Offenses

Other similar or related offenses include:

  1. Practice of Law by Non-Member of the State Bar – California Business and Professions Code Section 6126(a) BPC

  2. Unauthorized Practice of Medicine – California Business and Professions Code Section 2052(a) BPC
3. Examples

A man is suspended by the California State Bar as a result of his violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct in numerous cases. The man is not authorized to practice law, however he continues to advertise his legal services and accept new clients. This man could be prosecuted for engaging in the practice of law by an inactive member of the California State Bar pursuant to California Business and Professions Code Section 6126(b) BPC.

In another example, an attorney mails in his bar dues but the State Bar never receives his check in the mail. After the deadline to pay dues passes, the State Bar puts the man on inactive status and mails him a notice regarding this status, which is received a few days later. The man continues to make court appearances and represent clients during this period. Upon receiving notice from the State Bar, the man immediately takes steps to pay the deficient amount and is placed back on active status. This man would not be criminally liable under California Business and Professions Code Section 6126(b) BPC for practicing while on inactive status because he did have knowledge of his change in status, which is required under the law.

4. Defenses to Practice of Law by an Inactive Member of the State Bar

As mentioned above, if the defendant did not know that his or her status has been changed to “involuntary inactive” he or she would not be guilty of this crime.

In addition, there is no statutory definition as to what constitutes “practicing law.” There may be cases where an inactive attorney may be employed by another attorney or firm and engage in activities that do not constitute the practice of law. In these cases, the defendant would have a valid defense if charged criminally.

5. Penalties

Engaging in the practice of law by an inactive member of the State Bar is a “wobbler” offense that can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor. If the case is filed as a felony, the defendant would face up to three years in prison. If filed as a misdemeanor, the maximum sentence that can be imposed is a year in jail.

6. Criminal Defense for Practice of Law by an Inactive Member of the State Bar Cases

If you have been charged criminally for engaging in the practice of law by an inactive member of the State Bar, it is critical that you consult with an experienced Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney immediately. Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer Michael Kraut is a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experience who now defends attorneys and other professionals charged with offenses like this.

For more information about engaging in the practice of law by an inactive member of the State Bar, and to schedule your free consultation, contact Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer 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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