Unauthorized Practice of Law: Texas Penal Code §38.123

Texas Criminal Law

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The Texas Unauthorized Practice of Law law makes it illegal to practice law in one of the ways listed in the statute without a license and with the intent to obtain an economic benefit for yourself.

The Texas legislature codified this criminal offense in Texas Penal Code Section 38.123. The legislature did not update this law in 2023. In fact, this law has not been amended since 1993.

The Penal Code classifies the Texas Unauthorized Practice of Law law under Title 8 “Offenses Against Public Administration,” Chapter 38 “Obstructing Governmental Operation.” Learn more about the Texas offense of Unauthorized Practice of Law below.

What is the current Texas law about Unauthorized Practice of Law?

Texas law currently defines the offense of Unauthorized Practice of Law in Penal Code Section §38.123 as follows:[1]

(a) A person commits an offense if, with intent to obtain an economic benefit for himself or herself, the person:

(1) contracts with any person to represent that person with regard to personal causes of action for property damages or personal injury;

(2) advises any person as to the person’s rights and the advisability of making claims for personal injuries or property damages;

(3) advises any person as to whether or not to accept an offered sum of money in settlement of claims for personal injuries or property damages;

(4) enters into any contract with another person to represent that person in personal injury or property damage matters on a contingent fee basis with an attempted assignment of a portion of the person’s cause of action; or

(5) enters into any contract with a third person which purports to grant the exclusive right to select and retain legal counsel to represent the individual in any legal proceeding.

How can I be charged with an Unauthorized Practice of Law offense in Texas?

You can be charged with Unauthorized Practice of Law in Texas if the state’s attorneys believe that each of the elements of 38.123(a) as described in the section above have been met.

What is the statute of limitation for Unauthorized Practice of Law in Texas?

Misdemeanor level Unauthorized Practice of Law charges have a two-year limitations period.[2] Felony level offenses have a three-year limitations period.[3]

What is the penalty for a Texas Unauthorized Practice of Law offense?

A conviction for Unauthorized Practice of Law is punished by default as a Class A misdemeanor,[4] with a maximum possible fine under Texas state law of up to $4,000 and jail time of up to one year.

However, if you are convicted under subsection (a), and the state’s attorneys prove that you have previously been convicted under subsection (a) of this offense, then a conviction for Unauthorized Practice of Law in Texas is punished as a Felony of the Third Degree,[5] with a maximum possible fine under Texas state law of up to $10,000 and prison time of up to 10 years.

Can you get probation for Unauthorized Practice of Law in Texas?

The Texas Code of Criminal Procedure allows both judges and juries to grant probation for Unauthorized Practice of Law, and judges are also allowed to accept deferred adjudication plea deals.[6]

What level of crime is Unauthorized Practice of Law in Texas?

The Penal Code classifies Unauthorized Practice of Law as either a Class A misdemeanor or third degree felony, depending on the circumstances.

Learn more about the penalty range for this offense in the section above.


^1. Texas Penal Code §38.123. This law is current as of 2024.^2. Code of Criminal Procedure 12.02(a)^3. See Code of Criminal Procedure 12.01(9)^4. Texas Penal Code §38.123(c)^5. Texas Penal Code §38.123(d)^6. See Chapter 42, Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, Art. 42A.054, Art. 42A.056, Art. 42A.102 .


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