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Home / Case Digests / Committee on Professional Ethics — Contingent Fees: Opinion 880

Committee on Professional Ethics — Contingent Fees: Opinion 880

Committee on Professional Ethics

Contingent Fees

Vehicle & Traffic Law

Opinion 880

Question: The inquiring attorney asked if he may offer a refund of legal fees paid by a client in connection with proceedings for violations of the Vehicle and Traffic law if the charges were not dismissed or reduced.

Opinion: The committee stated that the prohibition of contingent fees in criminal matters is inapplicable to simple traffic infractions which are expressly deemed noncriminal; violations of the Vehicle and Traffic Law which constitute misdemeanors or felonies are subject to the prohibition on contingent fees. In agreements to provide legal services for such violations and in advertising thereto, it must be clear that contingent fees are not available with respect to felony and misdemeanor charges. In criminal matters, an agreement to refund a fee paid in advance upon the occurrence of a certain outcome may be deemed a prohibited contingent fee.