Unauthorized Practice of Law
Just as a professor needs special licensing to teach and a private investigator needs a license to investigate, lawyers must be licensed to practice law in the state of Florida. Each state has its own set of requirements for one to legally practice law. Failure to meet those requirements and still practice law within a given jurisdiction can result in possible criminal prosecution for the unauthorized practice of law. If you or someone you know is currently facing criminal charges for the unauthorized practice of law, reach out to a seasoned criminal defense attorney.
The Orlando unauthorized practice of law defense lawyers at The Umansky Law Firm are here to help guide you through this troubling time. The prosecution will aggressively pursue a conviction, regardless of whether you had good faith intentions or not. It’s our job as your legal counsel to not only protect your rights as the accused but also construct a formidable defense to the charges you face. Don’t let your life be defined by a single mistake. Speak to our team today to learn of your criminal defense options.
Elements of Practicing Law in Florida
Anyone can say they’re practicing law, but there are certain actions that only licensed lawyers can perform. Anyone who is not a licensed legal professional will face criminal charges if found guilty of engaging in any of the following:
- Preparing Legal Documents on a Third Party’s Behalf: It is against the law to choose legal documents for another, assist in the completion of said documents, or prepare them on a third party’s behalf.
- Representing Individuals: Lawyers have the exclusive ability to represent individuals in judicial proceedings and negotiate on their behalf.
- Giving Legal Advice: Only a lawyer can give legal advice regarding one’s rights and how to protect those rights. This doesn’t mean, however, that one can’t provide information or advice regarding legal matters. The law only criminalizes engaging in such actions while portraying oneself to be a lawyer.
- Presenting Oneself as an Attorney: Florida law prohibits the act of giving off the impression of being a licensed attorney. Actions include building a website advertising your legal services and purchasing an office space in the guise of an attorney.
The Supreme Court of Florida has the exclusive authority to regulate the practice of law per the Florida Constitution. The Court gave The Florida Bar the responsibility of investigating matters of the unauthorized practice of law, but rather than actively seek out violators, they look into received complaints. The Bar can choose to pursue one of the following three options upon receiving a complaint of the unauthorized practice of law:
- Close the case due to insufficient grounds
- Recommend that the individual accept a cease and desist affidavit
- Pursue litigation
While the first two options avoid the potential for criminal penalties, pursuing litigation can result in one facing severe criminal penalties.
Florida Penalties for Unauthorized Practice of Law
The unauthorized practice of law in Florida was a first-degree misdemeanor for a long time, with penalties of up to 1 year in jail and $1,000 in fines. A change in Florida law at the turn of the century upped the crime to a third-degree felony which is punishable by:
- Up to five years in prison
- Up to five years of probation
- Up to $5,000 in fines
In many cases, the court also orders individuals to pay restitution to those who fell victim to their unauthorized practice of law. This often comes alongside sanctions from the Florida Bar or a Florida Supreme Court injunction.
Criminal Defenses to Unauthorized Practice of Law
Notaries in Florida are commonly reported to the state bar for the unauthorized practice of law for something as simple as helping an individual fill out a legal form, and while the law was created to prosecute those who intentionally mislead others, far too often it’s the wrong people getting convicted. We are here to stop that. The Orlando unauthorized practice of law defense lawyers at The Umansky Law Firm share more than 100 years of combined experienced and have a strong desire to protect the rights of the accused.
As former prosecutors, we have a very in-depth understanding of the criminal case investigative process and strategy used in litigating cases. We can use that knowledge to your benefit to help have charges lessened or even dismissed altogether. Speak with a Board Certified Criminal Trial Lawyer by calling us today for a free case evaluation.