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Updated: Sep 12

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California lawyers convicted by the California State Bar of a felony or misdemeanor involving moral turpitude face potential license revocation or disbarment. Crimes of moral turpitude usually involve crimes of assault, robbery, or fraud.

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Criminal Convictions and Attorney Discipline in California

The California State Bar can also refuse licenses to prospective California lawyers whose moral character has not been rehabilitated and who have a criminal background. If past crimes or misconduct occurred more than seven (7) years ago, it makes no sense if (despite the recent passage of Assembly Bill 2138).

⚠️ Find out about the latest attorney discipline in California.

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The California State Bar is not a lawyer referral service and cannot provide recommendations or direct you to a specific lawyer or give legal advice. To obtain certification from the State Bar, lawyer referral services must follow the requirements set by the California Supreme Court.

A California State Bar certified and approved lawyer referral service can:

  • Help decide whether without a lawyer your problem can be solved. For instance, you may have an issue that could be solved by a rent control board or neighborhood mediation service, without charge. The referral service will link you with the appropriate agency if you need this form of assistance.

  • Refer to a pre-screened California lawyer who has expertise in the right area of law and who is a good member of the State Bar. Lawyer referral services can only recommend lawyers who meet the practice and expertise requirements of the State Bar related to your legal needs.

  • Refer to a California lawyer who carries protection against professional liability. In general, lawyers may determine if they want to carry insurance, but a lawyer must have insurance to be able to serve customers referred by a Certified Lawyer Referral Service. Getting insurance is not only important in the case of malpractice, it also often ensures that risk management services and training offered by the insurance provider help the lawyer.

If you need a referral to a pre-screened and reputable California attorney, submit your request 24 hours a day. California attorneys from our network are vetted for credentials, ethical standards, performance, experience, and fair legal fees.

Who regulates attorneys in California?

The California State Bar, as an administrative wing of the California Supreme Court, controls attorneys in California.

In matters of lawyer discipline, the California Supreme Court has the final say, but the highest court of the state defers to suggestions made by the State Bar Court.

Conviction hearings originate in the Investigation Section of the Bar Court (as opposed to the Hearing Department) upon the submission by the State Bar's Office of the Chief Trial Lawyer ('OCTC') of a certified copy of a conviction record.

The 2009 California Discipline Scheme State Bar Report describes "conviction referral" as:

After the criminal prosecution of a member, a formal disciplinary proceeding to decide if the conviction includes moral turpitude or other punishment warranting wrongdoing and if so, to evaluate the required degree of discipline. A conviction referral proceeding is triggered by a referral order from the Review Department of the State Bar Court ordering the Hearing Department to hold a hearing, file a conviction order and request that punishment be enforced, if any, or take other action on the issue or issues set out in the order.

The OCTC received 343 new criminal cases for monitoring in 2009, up from 283 in 2005, according to the report, which outlines the compliance machinery of the Bar.

Subject to the risk of temporary termination of the bus service. & Prof. Code Sec. 6102 (a), once a decision of conviction has become final, final discipline is not allowed.

What criminal convictions cause discipline from the CA State Bar?

California lawyers will be convicted for felony convictions involving moral turpitude as well as convictions involving' other discipline warranting misconduct.'

Section 6101 (a) of the California Business and Professions Code provides that conviction "of a misdemeanor or felony, involving moral turpitude, is a cause of disbarment or suspension." (Conviction is specified in subsection (e) to include a plea or verdict of guilty, acceptance of no plea of the contest, or a conviction following a plea of no contest.)

In accordance with its "inherent power to control the practice of law to protect the profession and the public," the state Supreme Court can also take disciplinary measures in relation to other misconduct warranting discipline."

In felony cases involving moral turpitude or an aspect of which is the explicit intent to cheat, defraud, steal, or make or suborn a false statement, Section 6102 (c) of the Business and Professions Code provides for summary disbarment.

In 2001, an attorney who did not challenge the forgery of a witness's signature on court papers, the summary disbarment clause emerged. The State Supreme Court dismissed claims that the petitioner was entitled to a hearing and ruled that there wasn't a constitutional violation of the summary disbarment clause on the intrinsic jurisdiction of the court over attorney discipline.

What is moral turpitude?

A lot rides on whether moral turpitude requires a conviction. Yet according to the state Supreme Court, moral turpitude "is an elusive concept incapable of the precise general definition."

Moral turpitude' has been described by many authorities as an act of baseness, vileness or depravity, contrary to the agreed and customary rule of law and duty between man and a man, in social and private duties that a man owes to his fellowmen, or to society in general.'

Certain crimes entail moral turpitude per se, such as "crimes involving an intention to defraud as well as serious repugnant crimes such as murder," while other crimes include moral turpitude depending on the circumstances of a specific case.

"The purpose of the moral turpitude inquiry allows the court to "identify those lawyers who are unfit to practice law, so that sanctions can be enforced to avoid future misconduct from the public, bench and bar.

Here are examples of cases in which moral turpitude has been found by the State Supreme Court or Bar Court in connection with convictions of attorneys:

  • Murder

  • Attempted lewd act on a minor.

  • Contributing to the delinquency of a minor (PC 272)

  • Solicitation to commit assault on the former client (PC 653(f))

  • Vehicular manslaughter with extensive priors19

  • Perjury

  • Mail fraud

  • Federal securities laws violation

  • False personation to obtain a benefit (PC 529(3))

  • Grand theft of client and firm funds

Standard 2.11 of the Rules of Procedure specifies that disbarment or actual dismissal is an effective punishment for convictions connected to moral turpitude. Note that when assessing discipline, the Bar may take mitigating and aggravating circumstances into account:

The absence of previous discipline, lack of injury, serious emotional problems not caused by criminal behavior, and "spontaneous" candor and cooperation in the investigative phase of the State Bar are mitigating circumstances.

On the other hand, aggravating conditions include a previous record of punishment, history of wrongdoing, and misconduct surrounded by bad faith, dishonesty, hiding or overreaching.

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Other crimes that demand discipline for California lawyers

The investigation into belief should not conclude even though there is no discovery of moral turpitude. If the prosecution includes "other misconduct warranting discipline," an attorney will also be prosecuted.

Like "moral turpitude," this notion seems to suffer from a lack of accuracy. Such other misconduct" was found, however in the following forms of convictions:

  • Drunk driving (DUI)

  • Domestic abuse

  • Carrying a concealed weapon

  • Willful failure to file federal tax returns on income

  • Non-payment of payroll taxes and contributions to unemployment benefits.

True suspension is the supposed punishment for the final prosecution of a crime that does not require moral turpitude but requires some discipline warranting misconduct. In the meantime, revocation or reproval is the presumed punishment for the final prosecution of a crime that does not require moral turpitude but includes discipline warranting other wrongdoing.

How To Find Honest Lawyers In California?

You should immediately consult with a pre-screened California attorney with experience in the California court system. To get an unbiased referral to a pre-screened California attorney you should:

  1. Submit a request online 24 hours a day. Free case review within 15 minutes.

  2. Request a lawyer referral by chat, you'll be connected with a California lawyer within 5 minutes.

  3. By calling the 24-hour lawyer referral hotline at 1-661-310-7999

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