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What happens when a lawyer is convicted of a crime?

Any person charged and convicted of a crime must deal with potential criminal penalties. Licensed professionals convicted of a crime must also face professional fallout.

Attorneys are subject to license suspension or even disbarment following a criminal conviction depending on the circumstances of the crime.

Disciplinary review

Attorneys have a duty to report criminal convictions to the State Bar. When the State Bar learns of a conviction, they will review the case to determine whether or not disciplinary action is appropriate. A disciplinary hearing does not involve a jury. If a State Bar Judge determines that disciplinary action is appropriate based on clear and convincing evidence, their options for discipline include issuing a reprimand, suspending the attorney’s license or even disbarring the attorney.

Convictions that will trigger a review

Convictions that may trigger a review include crimes involving moral turpitude. Crimes involving moral turpitude are crimes involving dishonesty or vile and shocking behavior. Examples of crimes of moral turpitude include murder, theft, drug crimes, mail fraud and perjury. The purpose of looking at crimes involving moral turpitude allows the judge to determine whether the convicted attorney is fit to practice law. Convictions that do not involve moral turpitude but still involve misconduct warranting discipline include drunk driving and failure to file tax returns.

If the convicted attorney can show that they have taken steps to be accountable for their crime and that they have worked to rehabilitate, it is possible to minimize the impact of a criminal conviction on their career. Similarly, a person with a criminal conviction in their past can obtain a professional license if they can show rehabilitation and change.

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