All posts by Torrence Howell

Ask a Business Law Attorney: What Are the Main Differences Between Federal and State Courts?

Ask a Business Law Attorney: What Are the Main Differences Between Federal and State Courts?

Being involved in business litigation is never something a company looks forward to. However, whether it is heard in the state court system or the federal court system can have a huge impact on how complex the case is. Read on to find out how these two court systems are different. Then reach out to a business law attorney who can help you with your business litigation.

There is a big difference between federal and state judges

A California judge is elected by the people of the state. On the other hand, a federal judge is appointed. This gives the judges differences in authority. In most cases, a federal judge is more likely to have a deep understanding of and better credential compared to state judges. Of course, state judges are also highly experienced but they do not always possess the same level of credentials as federal judges.

Federal courts tend to be more formal

Federal courts are more formal than state courts in just about any way you can think of. It is common for a federal judge to have held a high position with a prestigious law firm. It is common for them to have run a successfully private practice or to have served as a well-respected federal prosecutor. As a result, they are more rigid.

In fact, even at the clerk level, the federal court system is more rigid. The rules are strict and the judges go by the letter of the law when it comes to processes and documents. You can expect a federal judge to be entirely unwilling to bend in the way they apply Federal Rules of Evidence. On the other hand, California judges are bound to the California Evidence Code, which is not as strict. Additionally, depending on the specific law in front of the judges, it is common for state judges to have more leeway regarding their rulings.

Federal courts are generally more expensive

The fact that federal courts are so rigid is one of the reasons that federal lawsuits are much more expensive to litigate compared to state lawsuits. It is true that there is no such thing as a cheap lawsuit, but it is common for a company who is facing federal litigation issues to instead choose the more affordable arbitration or mediation option.

Both courts require an experienced attorney

No matter what court your business law issue is being handled in, you need an attorney who can help you through the process from A to Z. Reach out to Law Offices of Torrence L. Howell to speak to an experienced attorney who is ready to help you. Call (909) 920-0908 or send your info to info@torrencelhowelllaw.com to get the process started.

Dropped, Dismissed, and Acquitted: Learn About Different Potential Outcomes for Domestic Violence Charges

Dropped, Dismissed, and Acquitted: Learn About Different Potential Outcomes for Domestic Violence Charges

When a person faces criminal charges, they may hear the terms “dropped” and “dismissed” used interchangeably. However, in legalese they mean two different things and the outcome of a case is very different depending on whether it is dropped or dismissed. Read on to learn about the distinction. Then contact Law Offices of Torrence L. Howell at (909) 920-0908 if you need legal assistance with a domestic violence charge.

What it means when charges are dropped

If a case is dropped by the prosecution, that means that the prosecution has made a decision to withdraw the charges against you. When they do so, the charges are stricken. The prosecutor may drop all charges related to a domestic violence case, or they may drop just one type of abuse charge and move forward with other charges.

The most common reason that prosecutors will drop charges against a defendant is because they no longer believe that they have enough evidence to win their case. This may be because they have uncovered additional information and believe the defendant to be innocent, or it may be that the facts they have just do not add up to enough to convince a jury or judge.

In domestic violence cases, this can happen if the prosecution is presented with evidence that the case was related to self-defense. In other instances, the prosecutor could agree to drop charges as part of an agreement with the defendant to engage in diversion or to plead guilty to certain charges in exchange for their more serious charges being dropped.

What it means when charges are dismissed

If a case is dismissed then a judge has found reason to stop the charges against the defendant. This may be because the judge found that there were legal errors or because they believe that there is insufficient evidence that the defendant committed the crime. Another example would be if the judge believed that the defendant did commit the acts they were accused of but did not find that the acts fit the legal definition of the crime they were accused of.

What it means when a defendant is acquitted

If the case is taken to trail and the jury finds the defendant not guilty, then this is known as an acquittal. Essentially, it means that the defendant has beat the charges. It may not mean that the jury believes the defendant is innocent, but it does mean that they believe the prosecution did not prove guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Domestic violence is a serious charge. California laws should be appropriately administered to hold the guilty accountable without sacrificing the freedom and good name of those who are not guilty. If you are involved in a domestic violence case, no matter which side you are on, then we recommend contacting Law Offices of Torrence L. Howell at (909) 920-0908 for a legal consultation right away.

Has Your Copyright Been Infringed? The Answer May Not Be as Simple as You Think

Has Your Copyright Been Infringed? The Answer May Not Be as Simple as You Think

When a person creates a work from their own ideas and uses their own vision to complete it, they want to protect it from being used by or attributed to someone else. This is not difficult to understand and it is why copyright exists. Many people think of copyright law involving just musicians, artists, and writers, but in fact many companies of all sizes and types are covered by copyright laws.

That said, at Law Offices of Torrence L. Howell we find that many companies do not have a thorough understanding of these laws, how they impact their own intellectual property, and what can be done if their copyright is infringed. Read on to get answers to these tough questions. Then contact us at (909) 920-0908 to get answers to your business law questions.

The types of work covered by copyright laws

According to U.S. copyright laws, literary, theatrical, musical, choreographic, motion picture, and audio-visual works are protected. Title 17 of the U.S. Code, which governs most of the copyright issues in the United States, also includes architectural works, software code, and engineering designs. In order for any of these described things to be covered, they must be fixed, which means that they must be fixed in a way that is capable of being reproduced.

The types of work not covered by copyright laws

On the other hand, specific types of work cannot be copyrighted. This includes common property (for example, a chart or calendar), typography, symbols, contents lists, procedures, works in the public domain, and processes. Certain things that a person may think should be covered by copyright are actually covered by trademark law, such as names and slogans.

Registered vs. not registered

You may have heard that a work is copyrighted automatically when it is published and that it is not necessary formally file a copyright. This is partially true. Common law copyright does take effect as soon as something is published. However, it does not have the same level of protection as a federally registered copyright does. For example, if your copyright is infringed and you want to file a lawsuit for statutory damages, the work must have a federal registration on file.

Infringement can be up to interpretation

If a person or company blatantly copies your work then it may be obvious. However, this is not the most common way in which copyright is infringed. Instead, there are often instances in which large parts of a work are reproduced. Think, for example, of a song melody that is used within the structure of a different song. It is the job of the judge to determine if the works are similar enough in whole to involve an issue with copyright infringement.

Contact us today if you have questions about copyright law

If you have reason to believe that your copyright has been infringed on, or if you want to ensure that you have legal recourse if it ever is infringed on, then you should contact Law Offices of Torrence L. Howell at (909) 920-0908 as soon as possible.

The Most Important Factors to Consider When Making Custody Agreements

The Most Important Factors to Consider When Making Custody Agreements

As a parent, there is nothing as important to you as the welfare of your child. As you consider the best way to move forward with a custody agreement, make sure that you are considering both the long-term and short-term consequences of anything you come up with. Keep reading to get some advice on the factors that should be considered. Then reach out to Law Offices of Torrence L. Howell at (909) 920-0908 to speak to an experienced family law attorney.

You have three main parenting options

First, it is important to understand what your parenting options are. There are three choices, beginning with sole decision making by one parent. Another option is joint decision making between both parents but primary custody with one parent. Finally, the third option is for the child(ren) to live in both homes and for both parents to make decisions about their lives and welfare.

Make sure to consider all visitation and access issues

If you are not thinking of the long-term situation then you may only think of visitation and custody today but the truth is that there are many other things to think about. Yes, you should start by determining who will have the kids on the weekdays and weekends but what happens during holidays and long weekends? What about school breaks and summer vacation?

Do you want birthdays taken into consideration? For example, who gets the kids on their birthday, and do you have a provision to have your child on your own birthday? What about other special occasions? What is the process in place for a notice of change? If there are expenses incurred in missed time with the kids, who pays them? These are just some of the things that should be considered and ironed out within the custody agreement.

Consider potential geographic restrictions

If you and your co-parent both live in the same state and city today then you will likely have an easier time coming up with a custody agreement compared to co-parents who live out of state. That said, do not assume that you will always live in the same state. You should have rules in place for what to do if one parent needs to move out of the city, state, or even country. There should also be provisions for potential foreign travel.

Spell out who has access to records

If one parent is going to be the primary caregiver and the other will only have occasional visitation, then it is possible that the caregiving parent will not want the other parent to have access to records. This may include school records, medical records, and similar. Your custody agreement can spell out what they have access to. If you do decide to prevent them from having access then make sure you let the doctor, school, etc. know that the child’s other parent does not have a legal right to these documents.

There May Be More California Alimony Options Than You Realize

There May Be More California Alimony Options Than You Realize

Alimony, which is more commonly referred to as spousal support in legal terms, is a situation in which one spouse pays another spouse support after a divorce is final. There are many reasons that the courts can order alimony but one thing is always true: It is designed to support the receiving spouse, not the children. That is covered by child support.

According to California law there is just one type of alimony but there are many factors that are considered to decide if it should be given. As a result, though they are not named, there end up being specific types of alimony that are awarded. If you feel that you are entitled to alimony, or if you are being asked to pay it and do not find it fair, the new highly encourage you to contact Law Offices of Torrence L. Howell at (909) 920-0908 for a legal consultation.

Temporary alimony

Temporary alimony refers to alimony that is awarded before the divorce is final but after the couple has legally separated. It is not meant to continue for a long period but is rather there to ensure that the receiving spouse can pay for an attorney, housing, and other expenses as the divorced is finalized. Temporary alimony may also refer to alimony given for a short time after the divorce is finalized to give the spouse an influx of funds for things like a security deposit and moving costs.

Rehabilitative alimony

If one spouse is given rehabilitative alimony, then it is intended to help them get the skills or education they need to support themselves. This is often given when one parent was a stay at home parent and after years of marriage must get a job with little to no job experience. Rehabilitative alimony can pay for the costs of schooling, training, or certification, as well as living expenses while said rehabilitative actions are being taken.

Permanent alimony

In some cases, the court may order permanent alimony. This is most commonly the case in instances where one spouse needs ongoing medical care because they are disabled, ill, or older. Despite the name, it is not actually permanent. Instead, a person can go to the courts and file to have it modified at a later date. If the receiving spouse remarries, then permanent alimony will almost always stop.

Lump-sum alimony

It’s common for alimony to be paid on an ongoing basis but it is not the only option. When a person needs a sum of money right away but does not need ongoing help then a lump-sum amount may be given. It could be used to buy a house, pay off student loans, or other one-time expenses.

Which of these alimony options fits best for your divorce? Should you be paying alimony? Should you be receiving alimony? These answers can only be found when an attorney looks at your specific situation. Contact Law Offices of Torrence L. Howell at (909) 920-0908 to get started.

What is 50/50 Custody and Is it the Best Option for Your California Custody Case?

What is 50/50 Custody and Is it the Best Option for Your California Custody Case?

California judges prefer to give both parents partial custody whenever they can. In the case of joint custody, both parents who have equal parenting time are often said to have 50/50 custody. First, we will clarify if 50/50 custody and joint custody are really the same thing. Then we can discuss whether or not it may be the best option for your case. For more personalized help, reach out to Law Offices of Torrence L. Howell at (909) 920-0908.

Is there a difference between 50/50 custody and joint custody?

First, you should know that there are two types of child custody. The first is legal custody, which gives a parent the right to make legal decisions for their child’s life. If parents have joint legal custody then they can both make decisions regarding health care, school, religion, etc. This does require parents to either come to a compromise on things they disagree on or get the courts involved to find a compromise. A person can lack legal custody yet still be required to pay child support.

The other type of custody is physical custody. This refers to a parent who actually has the child in their custody. Even when joint physical custody is established, it is common for one parent to have more time with the children than the other. They are then referred to as the custodial parent or the primary custodial parent.

50/50 custody is not as common as you may think

The courts find 50/50 custody to be ideal for many reasons. They like to see parents involved in their child’s life but this is not always an option. The truth is that pure 50/50 custody – where the child spend 50% of their time with each parent – is less common than many assume. Most of the time one parent will have primary custody. The question will be whether it will be split 60/40, 70/30, or any other way.

How to get 50/50 custody

If you do want 50/50 custody then you will need to sit down and figure out an arrangement that will do that. Note that custody divisions are counted by the number of nights a child sleeps in each house. 50% of the year would be 182.5 overnights, which as you can see is already complicated by the half day. Then you must decide how to split up holidays, birthdays, vacations, etc.

The bottom line is that if you want 50/50 custody then both you and the co-parent are going to have to give up some time with the child and miss certain important dates or holidays. That said, the upside is that you will get your child 50% of the time.

We can help you find the right custody agreement

We do not necessarily recommend focusing too much on getting exactly 50% custody. The goal is to find out how custody could work best in your life and the life of your child. If that ends up as 52% custody or 45% custody then it may be better for everyone than nitpicking to hit an arbitrary goal of 50%. To find out more how an attorney can help you find the right custody options, reach out to Law Offices of Torrence L. Howell at (909) 920-0908 now.

Get Answers to Common Business Questions from a Qualified Attorney

Get Answers to Common Business Questions from a Qualified AttorneyIf you are in business then you have questions about business law – it is as simple as that. We highly recommend that you take your specific questions to a business law attorney who can help with your specific needs, whether they are related to business disputes, contract resolution, or something else entirely. In the meantime, keep reading to get answers to some common questions we get.

I am getting divorced – how can I protect my business?

If you own it, then it is likely the assets of your business are going to be considered during property division in your divorce. The worst thing that could happen is that you could have to liquidate your business assets in order to fulfill the obligations of the divorce. The good news is that your attorney can likely fight this.

There are also steps you can take proactively to protect your business from divorce. For example, you can draft a prenuptial agreement (or postnuptial if you are already married), you can prevent your spouse from contributing their own work or assets while you are married, you can have a lockout provision on the partnership, LLC, or shareholder agreement of your company, or you can pay yourself a competitive salary. We can help you find the right strategy for your unique situation. Contact Law Offices of Torrence L. Howell at (909) 920-0908 for a consultation.

Is a lawyer required if I want to sell my business?

It is not required but it is highly recommended. Your attorney can look at the sales contract to ensure it is fair and that your best interests are being represented. We can help you avoid issues such as getting stuck with liability for ongoing expenses and / or liability during the transition process.

My company has been accused of breach of contract. What do we do?

If another party has brought a breach of contract allegation against you then you should always take it seriously. Your next move should be to contact an experienced attorney who can review your contract. We can look for the facts of the alleged incident to see if the grounds for breach of contract are valid. Once we know what we are looking at, we can work to resolve the issue either through mediation or arbitration.

If it is not possible to come to a resolution in either of these ways then you may end up defending your company in court. That certainly requires an attorney and you are going to want an attorney who has been working on the case since the beginning.

Get a consultation with a business attorney today

Now is the time to get a consultation with a business attorney. No matter what your question is or what your concerns are, you can count on Law Offices of Torrence L. Howell to have the answers for you. Reach out at (909) 920-0908 or info@torrencelhowelllaw.com and hire an attorney you can count on to be on your side.

Is Seeking Alimony in Your Best Interest? Learn About Your Options

Is Seeking Alimony in Your Best Interest? Learn About Your Options

Getting a divorce is difficult for most every couple, no matter how you look at it. There is often plenty of focus on how trying it is mentally and emotionally but it is important to understand that it can be financially devastating as well. In those cases, alimony is often the solution. If you are worried that you will not have the finances to continue in your current lifestyle then you should contact Law Offices of Torrence L. Howell as soon as possible at (909) 920-0908 for a free legal consultation.

There are laws that govern how alimony is determined

There are several factors that are used to determine how much alimony will be given but the main factor is the financial circumstances both spouses maintained during the divorce. If it is not reasonable to expect that one spouse can maintain that standard of living, and the other spouse is financially in a position to help then alimony may be awarded. Other factors that will determine how much alimony is given include:

  • How long the couple was married
  • How old both spouse are
  • The health of both parties
  • How much each contributed to the marriage – this includes not just financially but homemaking and child care contributions as well
  • Financial resources including non-martial and marital assets
  • Emotional / physical condition of both parties

There are three main types of alimony you can seek

When your divorce begins, your family law attorney should file for temporary alimony in order for your needs to be met while the divorce proceeds. As far as permanent alimony is concerned, there are three options:

  1. Transitional alimony: This is awarded as a one-time payment so that the lower-earning spouse is able to pay for something that will help them support themselves, such as buying a car, moving, etc.
  2. Rehabilitative alimony: This is awarded for a specific amount of time and the goal is to help the lower-earning spouse to go back to school, improve their job skills, or do something else that will allow them to improve their employability.
  3. Lifetime alimony. If you were married to your spouse for at least ten years then you may be eligible for alimony that is paid each month until your former spouse dies or you remarry.

Call now to discover your specific options

There are many options open to you. This may seem like a time of endings but it is a time of beginnings as well. If your spouse was the sole earner or higher earner then you may be eligible for financial help as you get your new life into order.

The best way to find out what your specific options are is to talk to an attorney. At Law Offices of Torrence L. Howell we can begin with a free legal consultation. This makes it possible for you to learn more about the options and how they may apply to your case. Call us today at (909) 920-0908 to begin the process.

Has Your Copyright Been Infringed Upon? Get the Details

Has Your Copyright Been Infringed Upon? Get the Details

If you have produced a unique work then you do not want it to be reproduced by someone else or attributed to someone else. But what happens if it is? Then it may be that your copyright has been infringed on. Read on more to learn about this type of case and then contact Law Offices of Torrence L. Howell at (909) 920-0908 if you are in need of a free consultation with a California business attorney.

Not all works are covered by copyright law

One of the first things that must be decided when looking to see if your copyright has been infringed on is what type of work it was and if it was covered. In this country, copyright laws cover works that are literary, musical, or audio-visual. These laws also cover motion pictures and choreography. More recent changes to the law have added engineering designs, architectural works, and software codes to the list of protected works.

Once you have established that your work is in one of the above categories you then have to prove that it was fixed or tangible. This means that it must have been preserved in some form that could have been reproduced.

Some of the most common types of work that are not copyrightable but people often believe are include typography, processes, public domain works, contents lists, procedures, and common property like charts and calendars. If you have a name or slogan that is being used illegally, that may be covered by trademark law but not copyright law. As you can see, the rules around these laws can be confusing. Reach out to an attorney for answers to your specific questions.

Has the work been registered?

Many people know that common law gives copyright as soon as a work is published. While this is true, it is also true that common copyright law doesn’t provide the protection you need. For that, you will need to have the copyright federally registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. If you want to file a lawsuit for copyright infringement – and seek damages for said infringement – then you will need to ensure that there is a federal registration on file. Once again, we can help with that.

Fair use could affect your copyright claim

Just because you have a work that was copyrighted and someone else used it does not meant that your copyright was infringed. For example, fair use can allow another person to a character non-commercially, if it is changed enough, if it does not affect your original, and in other cases. Fair use can allow someone to use your work with attribution and without payment.

The truth is that fair use is confusing and can often cause serious issues for a person who has worked hard on their own work. If you have questions about copyright law or need assistance from a business attorney then we urge you to contact Law Offices of Torrence L. Howell at (909) 920-0908 for a free legal consultation.

5 Things to Look for When Hiring a Business Attorney in California

5 Things to Look for When Hiring a Business Attorney in California

Your company needs a business attorney you can rely on. At Law Offices of Torrence L. Howell we offer the professionalism, availability, and expertise you need. However, we know that you may consider a number of attorneys before deciding to work for us. For those purposes, we suggest that you consider the five following factors as you search for the best attorney.

  1. You need an honest business law attorney
  2. This does not apply to simply telling the truth. When we say you need an honest business attorney we also mean that you need an attorney who will be 100% direct with you. You do not want an attorney who sugarcoats anything or holds back the details you need. This is not helpful to you because you need as much information as possible to make the decisions you need to make.

  3. You need an efficient attorney
  4. Many people assume that they an attorney who is affordable but what they are actually looking for is an attorney who is efficient. This is the best way to get affordable services. You want an attorney who has steps in place to handle any situation and who can hand off simple tasks to associates. You need an attorney who can instantly spot potential mistakes and challenges to ensure that their strategy avoids them.

  5. An attorney that is growing
  6. Every business must grow if they want to succeed. You are going to be asking your business attorney for professional advice and assistance. Do you want to do that with an attorney that is stagnant? Be sure to ask any business attorney how they are growing, how they are staying on top of new laws, and where they see their firm in the future.

  7. An attorney that works specifically with business law
  8. You want an attorney with experience but experience alone is not enough. You also want an attorney that has experience that works with your unique needs. For example, if you are in the field of real estate then you would want a business attorney that has experience with real estate law as well. If you are working with copyright issues then you would want an attorney who has experience with copyright issues.

  9. An attorney with versatility
  10. Yes, you want an attorney that has specific experience in the type of business you are in but you also do not want to have to hire a new attorney every time a new issue arises. As a result, you want an attorney who has experience within business as a whole.

If you are ready for an experienced business law attorney then we look forward to talking to you. Just reach out to Law Offices of Torrence L. Howell at (909) 920-0908 and we can begin with a free legal consultation.