BP 6125/6126: Unauthorized Practice of Law
Legal Definition: BP 6125: “No person shall practice law in California unless the person is an active licensee of the State Bar.”
BP 6126: (a) Any person advertising or holding himself or herself out as practicing or entitled to practice law or otherwise practicing law who is not an active licensee of the State Bar, or otherwise authorized pursuant to statute or court rule to practice law in this state at the time of doing so, is guilty…”
To be found guilty under BP 6125 the prosecution must prove:
- You either advertised or otherwise held yourself out as practicing or are entitled to practice law or you are actually practicing law
- You did this while not being an active member of the California State Bar or are otherwise authorized to practice law by statute or court rule.
What does this mean?
In this code section, there is no explicit definition provided for the term “practice law.” Nevertheless, the California Courts have broadly characterized it as the provision of services in court cases or litigation, offering legal advice or counsel, and assisting with the preparation of legal instruments or contracts to secure legal rights, regardless of whether it involves court proceedings.
This situation can also arise with attorneys who are no longer authorized to practice law, including those who have faced disciplinary measures by the State Bar or have been disbarred altogether, rendering them ineligible to practice law in California. Similarly, individuals who are not yet admitted lawyers, such as recent law school graduates or those currently studying in law school, cannot engage in the provision of legal services. If an individual were to approach a law student for legal advice or assistance with an ongoing case, it would be considered a violation of this code section. Only individuals who have successfully completed and passed the California Bar Exam, and have been officially sworn in as members of the California State Bar, are legally permitted to practice law. The same principle applies to paralegals, who, by virtue of not being lawyers, are restricted from engaging in the practice of law.
This encompasses activities such as offering legal advice on matters of law, preparing stipulations and releases, and representing individuals in court hearings, among other examples, all of which are regarded as the practice of law. These restrictions are in place to ensure that those seeking legal guidance, expertise, and representation can place their trust in experienced professionals with authoritative knowledge in the field.
Generally speaking, BP 6126 is a misdemeanor offense in California. If convicted, you can be sentenced to up to one year in County Jail. You would be required to serve at least 50% of that time in custody. You could also be subject to fines upwards of $1,000 for the offense.
However, if you are a former attorney, the charge becomes a wobbler offense. This means, if you have been involuntarily shifted to inactive status in the State Bar, you’ve been suspended by the State Bar, you’ve been disbarred, or you have resigned from the State Bar, you could face a wobbler offense, meaning you can be charged with this section as a misdemeanor or as a felony offense. If you are convicted under this section as a felony, you could be sentenced to State Prison for upwards of up to 16 months, 2 or 3 years. You would have to serve at least 50% of that time in custody.
This is not a strike offense under the California Three Strikes law, and it is not a Sex Offense under PC 290. You could also face a suspension or loss of your Professional License if convicted, especially if you ever wanted to become a lawyer, and if you are not a legal resident, you would face Deportation in Immigration Court since the offense is deportable, in that it is a crime lying or deceit.
If you find yourself facing a legal situation like this, it is important to understand that you have options when it comes to defending yourself. It is crucial to demonstrate that your actions do not fall under the category of “actively practicing law.” By failing to provide evidence of engaging in the practice of law, the prosecution’s case against you could be weakened. It is worth noting that California law is somewhat vague in defining what exactly constitutes the act of “practicing law.” If your actions do not align with the conventional portrayal of lawyers in movies, with judges and juries involved, such as in the film “My Cousin Vinny,” you may have more flexibility in arguing that you were not actually practicing law.
Another potential argument you can make, especially if you are an inactive attorney, is that you were unaware of your inactive status at the time of practicing. Consider a situation where you have submitted your payment for California dues to the State Bar, but unfortunately, the check gets lost in the mail. In such a case, you genuinely believed that your payment had been sent and received, unaware that it never reached its destination. Consequently, your status as an attorney would be deemed inactive, and you may have never been informed of this fact. Failing to establish this element could weaken the evidence presented by the prosecution, making it insufficient to prove your guilt in the unauthorized practice of law.
As an experienced professional in this field, I can assure you that understanding the nuances of the law and presenting a strong defense requires expertise and authority. Trust in your legal representation is crucial, and it is essential to seek advice from a trustworthy source to navigate these complex matters.
Dabbling in the unauthorized practice of law is a perilous endeavor, with ramifications that can reverberate throughout one’s life. Beyond the immediate risk of legal penalties, a conviction under this provision can cast a long shadow over your professional aspirations, obstructing any aspirations you may have of practicing law legitimately.
At Inland Empire Defense, we comprehend the gravity of such charges. Our seasoned Ontario BP 6125/6126 attorney has a demonstrated history of adeptly navigating the intricacies of cases related to the unauthorized practice of law under BP 6126. With us, you aren’t just getting a lawyer; you’re securing a partner dedicated to preserving your future and reputation.
Don’t compromise on your defense. Reach out to the esteemed team at Inland Empire Defense by calling 909-281-0391. Located in the heart of Ontario, we stand as a beacon of hope, expertise, and steadfast commitment for our clients.