By Joseph Ax
NEW YORK, Dec 12 (Reuters) - Criminal defendants who pose as
attorneys and cost their victims more than $1,000 in damages
will face felony, rather than misdemeanor, charges under a bill
signed into law on Wednesday by Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Previously, impersonating an attorney was treated as a
misdemeanor, regardless of the extent of the damage caused to
victims. State law already makes it a felony to pose as a member
of numerous other licensed professions, including doctors,
accountants and social workers.
The new law creates a Class E felony, punishable by up to
four years in prison, for those who impersonate attorneys and
"causes another person to suffer monetary loss or damages
exceeding one thousand dollars or other material damage
resulting from impairment of a legal right."
Fraudsters who pose as attorneys often prey upon New York's
immigrant communities, where there is no shortage of potential
victims who need to apply for legal documents but find it
challenging to navigate governmental red tape without
"The consequences of their bad advice can be life altering
for their victims, resulting in jail time, loss of child
custody, deportation and financial hardship," said New York
State Bar Association President Seymour James, the
attorney-in-charge of the Legal Aid Society's criminal practice.
The law goes in effect on Nov. 1, 2013.
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