Have you ever received a traffic ticket or been charged with an offense? If the answer is yes, you undoubtedly received countless letters in the mail from attorneys offering you their legal services. Many if not most people find this practice to be intrusive and invasive.
Well, the New Jersey State Legislature agrees with them. In an effort to end this practice, the New Jersey Assembly Judiciary Committee voted unanimously to send on two bills that would criminalize direct solicitation letters by lawyers in Municipal Court cases as 3rd degree crimes.
The Legislature found that “certain attorneys are sending intrusive and unwarranted solicitation letters to victims of motor vehicle accidents, drivers who receive traffic tickets, and persons charged with offenses.” These attorneys obtain the individual’s names, addresses and other personal information through public information sources such as police reports and court records. They then proceed to send the letters in an attempt to solicit business.
The Legislature found that “this practice constitutes an abuse of our system of open public records and constitutes an invasion of privacy.” It also increases the public’s mistrust and suspicion of the legal profession.
This bill would prohibit attorneys from sending any written communication soliciting professional employment on the attorneys’ own behalf to any person whose name, address or other personal information was obtained from a public record such as a police report, accident report or court record. The bill would not apply to any solicitation through advertising which is not directed to a specific person.
Violation of the provisions of the bill would be a crime of the third degree (punishable by a term of imprisonment of three to five years, a fine of up to $15,000, or both.)