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What is the penalty for falsely presenting yourself as an attorney in Washington State?

Seattle, WA |

In a letter to a third party a woman represented she was an attorney, (she is not) threatened an inocent party with repurcussions for "sharing her personal information" (which he did not). She goes on to threaten; 1. she is going to notify the 1st party's employer that she is mentally unstable; (untrue) 2. She will contact the Better Business Bureau to complain that potential client's of the third party's business are at risk of their information being shared; (untrue) 3. Threatened to contact the State of Washngton, Department of licensing to try and have their business license revoked for "breach of confidentiality"; (untrue) 4. Threatend to contact Washington State to obtain a restraining order stating that the first party has a criminal record; (untrue) and other threats.

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Attorney answers 3


If you are asking is it a crime to say to someone you are an attorney when you are not? The short answer is, maybe. It will depend on the facts, what she has said and done and how it has affected you. You should do three things immediately: 1) contact an attorney to assist you in getting an anti-harassment order against this person, 2) contact the police about this situation, and 3) contact the Washington State Bar Association about her and what she is doing.


It appears that her conduct may be a misdemeanor.

RCW 2.48.180
Definitions – Unlawful practice a crime – Cause for discipline – Unprofessional conduct – Defense – Injunction – Remedies – Costs – Attorneys' fees – Time limit for action.

(1) As used in this section:

(a) "Legal provider" means an active member in good standing of the state bar, and any other person authorized by the Washington state supreme court to engage in full or limited practice of law;

(b) "Nonlawyer" means a person to whom the Washington supreme court has granted a limited authorization to practice law but who practices law outside that authorization, and a person who is not an active member in good standing of the state bar, including persons who are disbarred or suspended from membership;

(c) "Ownership interest" means the right to control the affairs of a business, or the right to share in the profits of a business, and includes a loan to the business when the interest on the loan is based upon the income of the business or the loan carries more than a commercially reasonable rate of interest.

(2) The following constitutes unlawful practice of law:

(a) A nonlawyer practices law, or holds himself or herself out as entitled to practice law;

(b) A legal provider holds an investment or ownership interest in a business primarily engaged in the practice of law, knowing that a nonlawyer holds an investment or ownership interest in the business;

(c) A nonlawyer knowingly holds an investment or ownership interest in a business primarily engaged in the practice of law;

(d) A legal provider works for a business that is primarily engaged in the practice of law, knowing that a nonlawyer holds an investment or ownership interest in the business; or

(e) A nonlawyer shares legal fees with a legal provider.

(3)(a) Unlawful practice of law is a crime. A single violation of this section is a gross misdemeanor.

(b) Each subsequent violation of this section, whether alleged in the same or in subsequent prosecutions, is a class C felony punishable according to chapter 9A.20 RCW.

(4) Nothing contained in this section affects the power of the courts to grant injunctive or other equitable relief or to punish as for contempt.

(5) Whenever a legal provider or a person licensed by the state in a business or profession is convicted, enjoined, or found liable for damages or a civil penalty or other equitable relief under this section, the plaintiff's attorney shall provide written notification of the judgment to the appropriate regulatory or disciplinary body or agency.

(6) A violation of this section is cause for discipline and constitutes unprofessional conduct that could result in any regulatory penalty provided by law, including refusal, revocation, or suspension of a business or professional license, or right or admission to practice. Conduct that constitutes a violation of this section is unprofessional conduct in violation of RCW 18.130.180.

(7) In a proceeding under this section it is a defense if proven by the defendant by a preponderance of the evidence that, at the time of the offense, the conduct alleged was authorized by the rules of professional conduct or the admission to practice rules, or Washington business and professions licensing statutes or rules.

(8) Independent of authority granted to the attorney general, the prosecuting attorney may petition the superior court for an injunction against a person who has violated this chapter. Remedies in an injunctive action brought by a prosecuting attorney are limited to an order enjoining, restraining, or preventing the doing of any act or practice that constitutes a violation of this chapter and imposing a civil penalty of up to five thousand dollars for each violation. The prevailing party in the action may, in the discretion of the court, recover its reasonable investigative costs and the costs of the action including a


Contact the bar association, give them a copy of the letter, and go from there.