A Bot Was Scheduled To Argue In Court, Then Came the Jail Threats

A British man who planned to have a “robot lawyer” help a defendant fight a traffic ticket has dropped the effort after receiving threats of possible prosecution and jail time. […] The first-ever AI-powered legal defense was set to take place in California on Feb. 22, but not anymore. As word got out, an uneasy buzz began to swirl among various state bar officials, according to Browder. He says angry letters began to pour in. “Multiple state bar associations have threatened us,” Browder said. “One even said a referral to the district attorney’s office and prosecution and prison time would be possible.” In particular, Browder said one state bar official noted that the unauthorized practice of law is a misdemeanor in some states punishable up to six months in county jail.

“Even if it wouldn’t happen, the threat of criminal charges was enough to give it up,” [said Joshua Browden, the CEO of the New York-based startup DoNotPay]. “The letters have become so frequent that we thought it was just a distraction and that we should move on.” State bar associations license and regulate attorneys, as a way to ensure people hire lawyers who understand the law. Browder refused to cite which state bar associations in particular sent letters, and what official made the threat of possible prosecution, saying his startup, DoNotPay, is under investigation by multiple state bar associations, including California’s.

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