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Why California Lawyers Must be Re-Fingerprinted

If you're licensed to practice in the state of California, you've probably received the email notice that you need to get fingerprinted again. And if you take a look at the State Bar's announcement, you'll probably just be frustrated as the apologetic note basically explains that the bar made a mistake.

What worse than the frustration of knowing the bar goofed and now you have to waste your time is that it expects its members to bear the cost of its mistake (See California Rule of Court 9.9.5(h)(1)). The deadline to comply is April 30, 2019.

Fingerprint Snitches

Surprisingly, the State Bar of California has been out of compliance (for 30 years!!!) with a statutory requirement that it receive notification from the DOJ of arrests and convictions of its members. Although most of us California lawyers were fingerprinted before being admitted, those fingerprints have, more than likely, been destroyed. As it explained on the FAQ page, only a few attorneys are exempt from this requirement:

  • Those who applied for admission after July 1, 2017, and
  • Those who still have an active "fingerprint card" on file (this includes out of state applicants and some others since July 1, 2014).

To check to see if you need to be re-fingerprinted, you can login to your "My State Bar Profile," which will indicate whether you need to, as well as provide links to help you find a "Live Scan" provider.

What's the Damage?

The cost to re-fingerprint every attorney in the state is estimated at about $15.5 million, which the bar just can't afford. Fortunately, the actual cost to do the fingerprinting isn't that bad for each individual attorney. On average, it is expected to be about $80, with more than half of that going to the DOJ and FBI. Reportedly, there are some providers that have low or no cost services, but the nearly $50 in DOJ and FBI fees must still be paid.

Also, for those attorneys that qualify for a dues reduction, a one-time credit can be applied for, which will credit the amount paid for the fingerprinting to the following year's membership dues.

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