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Will civil disobedience impact moral character determination?

Your commitment to representing people who face criminal charges or civil litigation is probably a major reason why you are working towards a license to practice law. Perhaps in your younger years, your principles led you to engage in an act of civil disobedience. However, you may wonder if the state bar will hold your previous actions against you when you seek approval for a law license.

It is true that certain acts that cast doubt on your moral character may cause the bar to deny you a law license. However, it is not a given that a previous act of civil disobedience will automatically disqualify you.

Criminal acts and the state board

The California State Bar explains that the severity of a criminal act will factor into whether the bar will decide you have negative moral character. If you have committed a serious crime, the bar will have a harder time drawing inferences about your positive traits. In the end, the bar may conclude you have too many negative character traits and you are unfit for a license.

How civil disobedience is a factor

The state bar points out that some acts of breaking the law do not result in an immediate negative evaluation of your character, provided that these are not crimes of moral turpitude. These include certain acts of civil disobedience. However, if the bar discovers evidence that your act of disobedience was the result of negative moral character, it could still count against you.

Even if the bar believes you have committed a serious crime, it is still possible to secure a law license. However, you have to show a record of exemplary behavior that lasted for a meaningful time period. So you might still gain a license to practice law in California, but it may take longer depending on whatever crime you have committed.

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