Business Law FAQ
What legal ramifications should I be concerned about when hiring and firing an employee?
There exist many different concerns regarding discrimination and compliance with federal labor standards. Also, the enforcement of non-competes, non-solicitation agreements, and confidentiality agreements comes to reality once the employee leaves the firm. Ensuring that your company’s employment agreements are in line, and your company policies are set up to handle this transition is extremely important. A firm with experience working through these policies for companies can ensure that terminations go smoothly.
What is the difference between an independent contractor and an employee?
While the answer to this question is not black and white, there are certain factors that aid in the analysis. 1099 Independent contractors typically provide their own equipment to fulfill their job tasks, their schedules are not dictated by the employer, and they are open to accept other forms of employment. W-2 Employees, on the other hand, work exclusively for the employer, are provided their equipment for work tasks, and must comply with workplace policies and procedures. This is only a surface level discussion of the factors that determine the answer independent contractor versus employee determination. An experienced employment attorney can properly decipher the differences between the two classifications and help you avoid the potential legal ramifications for misclassifying independent contractors.
How enforceable are non-compete clauses in Texas?
Texas’ jurisprudence encourages competition and generally courts will only enforce non-competes in the narrowest means possible. Whether a non-compete is enforceable or not is a questions of how broad the scope of the clause is in terms of geography, time length, and the description of the conduct restricted. Whether your company is drafting a non-compete, or you are an employee seeking advice on your non-compete before you leave a company, an experienced employment lawyer can ensure you know where you stand.
A competitor is claiming we are stealing their customers, what now?
Tortious interference with a contract is one of the most common lawsuits filed between competitors, and many times, competitors threaten tortious interference claims as a tactical business strategy to push back against market share increases. Whether a valid claim for tortious interference exists is a function of many factors including the type of agreement between your company and the customer, what type of industry the company is in, and what your company is doing to cause the customers to leave the competitor. The earlier an experienced business trial lawyer gets involved with a dispute like this, the easier it is to minimize the impact these disputes can have on your day to day business.
Can I stop a competitor from stealing my customers or clients?
If a competitor is deliberately interfering with contracts you have in place with competitors, vendors, or other strategic partners in your business channel, you may have a claim against your competitor for tortious interference with your contracts. If this is the case, you may be able to pursue restraining orders and monetary damages for the competitor’s conduct. An experienced business trial lawyer can determine whether you have a valid claim.
What do I need to do first when starting my own company?
There are many legal and non-legal considerations when starting up your own company, but forming an entity to protect your personal liability is the first step. From there, operating agreements, partnership agreements, by laws are the next steps. As your company grows, employee handbooks, work place policies and procedures, and human resources plans become important. An experienced business lawyer can help advise what stage of development your company is at, and what legal steps are needed at that stage.
Our company received a letter in the mail demanding certain actions, am I being sued?
A demand letter is not a formal lawsuit, but sometimes it is the first step in a dispute and can typically lead to a lawsuit if not handled properly. Demand letters are usually strong worded and can come across threatening when in fact they are not as menacing as they seem. An experienced business trial lawyer can decipher the demands in the letter, advise on next steps, and create a plan to strategically handle this dispute in the bigger context of the financial components of business.
Someone accused me of fraud, what type of lawyer do I need?
If a business partner, competitor, or other individual accuses you of fraud in a business dealing, you need to talk to a business trial lawyer as soon as you can. Fraud claims can implicate sizable damage awards and lengthy trials if not handled properly from the outset. The sooner your attorney is on the scene, the better.
Criminal Law FAQ
I was arrested for a DWI, what now?
Defending a DWI requires an investigation into the intricate details of the arrest, the evidence, and the implications the arrest has on your license. There are many steps that must be taken within the first two weeks of your arrest, so the longer you wait to hire an experienced DWI attorney, the more likely that you will miss certain opportunities to defend your license, employ certain legal strategies, and minimize the impact this charge will have on your daily life.
What does “no refusal weekend” mean?
When counties activate “No Refusal Weekends,” this has no impact on your right to refuse a breathalyzer or blood sample. See our blog article No Shirt, No Refusal, No Problem for a more in-depth analysis of these weekends. The difference in the process when the No Refusal Weekend policy is active . . . is nothing. You still have the ability to refuse a breath or blood test, law enforcement still has to go get a warrant before a judge, and the judge still has to sign off on the warrant by finding that probable cause exists that you in fact were operating a car while intoxicated. The only difference is that more judges and medical professionals are on duty to speed up the process between the refusal by you, the issuance of the warrant, and the actual blood draw. If you are arrested on a “No Refusal Weekend,” you should hire an experienced DWI attorney to make sure your rights were not trampled on during your arrest. Any violation of your rights could lead to an acquittal, reduction, or dismissal of your case and you need an experienced DWI lawyer to properly analyze these issues.
If I blow over a 0.08, am I automatically guilty?
No. There are many factors that go into analyzing your breath or blood sample. Facts such as how the traffic stop was initiated, what questions did the officer ask, how much time passed between your last drink and when the sample was taken, among other things impact the accuracy of the sample. An experienced DWI trial lawyer can properly assess these issues and decide how to use them in defense of your DWI charges.
If the police do not have my blood or breath, then can I still get a DWI?
Yes you can. To be convicted of DWI, the State must prove that a person is intoxicated while operating a motor vehicle. “Intoxicated” means an individual does not have the normal use of their mental and physical faculties due to the effects of a foreign substance, like drugs or alcohol. As a result, the State may prove their case through evidence other than your BAC level, such as field sobriety tests, audio footage of your speech, admissions by the driver admitting being drunk, and many other facts. This is why you need an experienced DWI defense lawyer to help in the defense of your DWI case, even if the State does not have your BAC information.
If I buy synthetic weed at a gas station, is it legal?
Most likely not. Synthetic weed is a growing trend in Texas and many retail sellers are marketing the product in stores. Some of the synthetics are legal. Many are not, however, and it can be difficult to discern what substances are considered controlled substances, and which are not. The conclusion that “because the substance is being sold in the gas station, it must be legal,” is no longer a sound conclusion. If you do get arrested for possession a controlled substance, synthetic weed, you need to contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as you can because this offense can bring with it felony charges. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can try and cut off the felony charges before they proceed to indictment.
If I sleep in my car, can I get a DWI?
The State can still charge you if you are in intoxicated and in control of your vehicle. The “operating” portion of the DWI law is broad and encompasses almost any action that indicates you are in control of your vehicle. For example, if your keys are in your pocket and you are sleeping in your vehicle, you are technically in control of your vehicle because you are able to operate it easily by inserting the key into the ignition. If you are arrested for a DWI for sleeping in your car, you need to hire an experienced DWI defense lawyer.
If I get pulled over for a DWI, do I lose my license?
Not necessarily. When you are initially pulled over under suspicion of DWI, there are a number of factors that go into whether DPS will suspend your license. You need an experienced criminal defense lawyer to help navigate this maze of procedural rules and tactics. Check out our blog article A Driver’s License, Alcohol, and You for a more in depth discussion of the process.
What are my rights when I get pulled over?
You have the right to know why you were stopped and to refuse to allow a search of your vehicle. Law Enforcement IS allowed to force you to step outside of the car, however they cannot conduct a search of your vehicle or your person without probable cause that a crime has been committed. As a result, any suspicions about alcohol related offenses do not automatically give rise to blood or breathe samples, or even standardized field sobriety tests (SFSTs). You should consult an experienced attorney if law enforcement violates your rights in seeking incriminating evidence.
Do I have to allow the police to search me or my car?
No. If asked by police to search your vehicle you should absolutely decline because you never know what they could find. To initiate a search of your vehicle, the officer on the scene must have probable cause that a crime is being committed and the further evidence of this crime exists within the vehicle.
What does “Family Violence” mean?
As defined by Texas Family Code § 71.004, “Family Violence” is an act by a member of a family or household against another member of the family or household that is intended to result in physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault or that is a threat that reasonably places the member in fear of imminent physical harm. If the court makes an affirmative finding of family violence on your case, this can have long term ramifications on certain privileges such as owning a handgun. If you are facing a charge with a family violence enhancement on it, it is important to have an experienced criminal defense attorney who knows how to navigate through and attempt to resolve the family violence finding in your favor.
How does bail work?
If you are arrested, the court will set bail for you after charging you with your offense. The amount of bail will depend on the offense, your previous criminal record, and the county of the offense. Once bail is set, you can employ a number of methods to gain your release including hiring bondsman, using a cash bond, or in some cases you can use an attorney-writ bond. If someone you know has been arrested, and you need to get them out on bond, contact our offices for help in securing their release.
What happens if my driver’s license is suspended?
You have certain options such as filing for an occupational license with the court. Depending on your offense and the nature of your job, this is a license that allows you to keep driving during certain times for work purposes. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help navigate this process and successfully put you back behind the wheel.
I have a warrant out for my arrest, what should I do?
You need to hire an attorney ASAP to avoid being arrested on site and put through the bail process. An experienced attorney may be able to minimize the impact the warrant will have on your daily life and guide you through booking and out on the other side so that you can focus on building your defense instead of dealing with bail.
Family Law FAQ
My spouse and I decided to get divorced but we do not want a fight, should we just use a collaborative attorney?
Collaborative divorce lawyers are common in today’s family law environment, but if you choose to go with a collaborative attorney, you may take unnecessary risks that could lead to traps along the way. A collaborative attorney cannot advocate for either party and must remain neutral. As a result, there could be numerous areas of the divorce where you are leaving rights on the table because you are not properly advised by an advocate who is in your corner. A skilled family law attorney is there to not only advise you of your rights but also to ensure your rights are vindicated.
How much should I expect to pay in child support?
The calculation of child support is based solely on the obligor’s income and a number of specific deductions allowed by law. The recipient’s income is not a factor in the amount of child support ordered by law, and neither is the income of an obligor’s new spouse. As the number of children increase, the percentage of the obligor’s income increases. There are a number of factors and alternative calculation methods that make every child support calculation unique. Therefore, it is important that you have an experienced family lawyer in your corner who knows how to approach unique child support issues.
What is alimony and how does it work?
Alimony is a traditional word used to define post-divorce payments from one spouse to another that has nothing to do with child support. Alimony is typically an agreed upon divorce term, whereas spousal maintenance is a form of alimony that is ordered by the court. Texas courts do not routinely order spousal maintenance, and the law requires a list of qualifications before a spouse is even eligible for spousal maintenance. The qualifications deal with the minimum reasonable needs of the spouse bringing home less income as well as minimum durations of the marriage. An experienced family law attorney will know how to seek spousal maintenance and alimony, as well as defend against it.
How long does a divorce usually take?
Every divorce is different and the length of time from filing to the final decree is a function of the complexity of issues, whether children are involved, how cooperative the parties act, and how well the attorneys work together. In Texas, there exists a minimum waiting period of 60 days after the initial filing of the divorce petition. Divorces that finish in 90 days or less are rare, and despite popular belief that “my divorce is simple,” and “there is not much to fight over,” many people do not anticipate many of the practical as well as legal issues that rise during the divorce process. Before beginning that process, it is important to talk with an experienced family law attorney who can accurately discuss time expectations as well as explain the process from start to finish.
I recently had a family member or friend go through divorce, mine will go just like theirs, right?
No two divorces are alike regardless of how similar the facts between the two cases. Another factor to consider is that the facts as told to you by a third party (as opposed to your lawyer), may be incomplete or misinterpreted. Basing your divorce expectations on what your friends and family members’ divorce experiences were can lead to confusion and frustration. As a result, you should never substitute what you hear from friends and family about their experiences with divorce for your attorney’s advice and guidance on YOUR divorce.
I was just served with a temporary restraining order (TRO) or protective order (PO), what does that mean?
This means you need an attorney immediately because the implications of a TRO or a PO are serious and imminent. A TRO sets out a number of restraints the court is placing on you for a two week period before a second hearing, a temporary orders hearing, will take place and the parties will have a chance to put on evidence to prove or defend against the TRO. A PO is a more extreme version of a TRO because violation of a PO can lead to the State charging you with a class B misdemeanor. In either case, you need to speak with an experienced family law attorney because preparation for a temporary orders hearing takes time and the more time your attorney has, the better your defense will be.
I think my child is living in a bad environment with my ex, what can I do?
If your divorce is final and your ex’s living environment has deteriorated to the point where you are concerned with your child being over there, you can file for a modification of the conservatorship orders. This includes changing the rights and duties each parent possesses, the visitation schedule, and even the naming of the primary parent. Not all changes in environment can lead to a successful modification and an experienced family law attorney can help you decide whether you have the ability to successfully modify your child custody order.
My ex’s income has increased significantly, can I increase child support payments?
Yes, if your ex’s income increases enough to warrant modifying the child support amount. The law allows for an increase (or decrease) in child support amounts based on new income levels. The law has certain timing as well as incremental dollar value change that must be present before the court may modify a child support amount. Speaking with an experienced family law attorney will help you decide whether you have grounds to move for a change in child support amount.