Category: News

27 Sep 2017

10 Things Every Confidentiality Agreement Must Have

Confidentiality AgreementA confidentiality agreement, also known as a non-disclosure agreement “NDA” to some, is necessary to keep secrets within a business from leaking to their competitors or from the public. This is done to keep secret, any information that could cause the company to lose money. If the company does anything illegal or can potentially cause harm to anyone, then the person who signed the NDA still has cause to take the matter to the proper authorities. However, many NDA’s will keep those people who are privy to the information from intentionally leaking new designs or scripts to the public where a competitor can beat them to market.

When drafting a confidentiality agreement, there are some basic points you need to cover and we have conveniently listed them here:

  1. Hire a contract attorney to help draft or at least review the proposed document. There could be clauses that are extreme or invalid. Plus, an experienced attorney is the best way to ensure you have all the practical points covered.
  2. Define what “confidential information” is to the reader. Some companies or bosses may want to be incredibly strict with this, such as, not divulging the type of coffee drinks that the boss orders. However, in most cases, this applies to documents that would contain secret information, for eyes within the company only. The goal is to list these items clearly and ahead of time so there is no confusion later.
  3. Establish who owns the confidential information. This will most likely be the company or parent company but state that clearly. For example, “…is the property of X and Y, LLC”
  4. Explain the purpose of the agreement. Let the person reading and signing the document why this information needs to be kept secret.
  5. Let the reader know examples of information that is not part of the agreement. This can include anything that is already in the public domain.
  6. Specify how the confidential information should be used or destroyed. If you allow an employee to take a prototype home with them, state when or if they should return it or if it is okay to destroy it using a specific method. If the prototype is a type of food item, then state that it must be consumed on the premises of the workplace or whether or not it can be taken home.
  7. Provide the length of time the agreement can be reviewed and when it must be signed and returned. Let the person know if they can keep a copy for their own records or not. Also, how long the agreement is valid for.
  8. Explain and list the punishments if the contract is violated either intentionally or accidentally.
  9. Add in standard contract provisions. This is the small but unique details an attorney can offer with ease. There are templates you could also purchase but keeping only the exact paragraphs that apply are the better way to go. An attorney will know what additional paragraphs you should include making sure that it is a binding agreement.
  10. Offer an incentive for signing. This could be the job itself or the privilege to view the confidential information if the agreement precedes the events. If you have an employee who is asked to sign a confidentiality agreement upon exiting the company, then offer a larger severance payment. Confidentiality agreements that do not contain some form of an incentive, can be argued as unenforceable under the eyes of the law.

If your NDA is legally binding then it can be enforced by the courts to prevent the person from leaking the information or demand financial compensation from them if it has already been violated. This might seem like a lot of work to a small start-up business but a good attorney can whip a valid agreement up in no time flat.

 

20 Sep 2017

Copyrighting Law Regarding Fan Fiction

Fan fiction has become increasingly popular over the last few decades. It used to be limited to the science fiction realms of Star Trek and Star Wars but now has a huge following of writers and readers for almost every popular television show and film series across several genres. Any person has the right to create their own writings in private. It becomes a legal dilemma when they publish these writings or videos online and build a following. The fan fiction creator could be slapped with a cease and desist letter from an attorney representing the person or entity who holds the copyright for the characters and universe involved. There are some things to know and as always, some exceptions to the rules.

If your “fan-fiction” is meant to build on the universe of the storyline such as the many novels that expanded the Star Wars universe then you need to have written permission to use specific words and copyrighted phrases from the owner.

copyright lawAspiring writers who want to write a spec-script can do so but they should never publish these works in a way that asks for money. Most spec-scripts are portfolio examples a writer provides to an agent or writer of another show that they are looking for work. Rarely will the writers or producers read a spec-script for a show that they actually work on.

If the fan-fiction is meant to be a parody, then it must have a clear vision of a social or thematic commentary. Most fan fiction does not fall into this category and merely uses the same characters in similar situations as what the original author had intended. If you do have a video channel that shows parody style videos and you use copyrighted items, then know the copyright holders may not share your same views. Be able to support that you are using the material as parody and be careful not to use specific logos whenever possible.

From time to time, a legitimate parody troop or even a large show is slapped with a cease and desist letter. Make sure to follow up with these notices by sending the cease and desist letter and your parody video to an attorney who understands copyright laws. If you can not afford their advice, then strongly consider taking the specific post or site down, as you could be hit with large fines and have your entire site removed forcefully.

It is perfectly legal to have an online blog or video channel that reviews shows and movies and even projects and theories into the world. This will rarely cause any trouble, as long as there are no copyrighted images on the screen. If you need to describe a scene with a screen grab, then try adding graphics on top of it to show that you are pointing out details within in.

The two main problems that can arise are when the fan fiction writer tries to profit from the original work without the consent of the copyright holder. Even if you are not asking for money, try not to have your posts pop up as the main search results when anyone performs a web search for the original content. These problems are easily avoidable and overall, fan-fiction can be a fun way to express your interests in a show or movie, meet other like-minded people, and practice writing.

 

13 Sep 2017

Marijuana DUI Testing Methods

California voters passing Proposition 64 in 2016 to legalize recreational use of marijuana. The exact laws of how it will be sold are still being written but recreation use is set to take place by 2018. Law enforcement authorities are more worried than ever that a huge amount of the population will be driving under the influence of marijuana and this will drastically raise the injuries on the road. It’s true that the intoxicating chemical in marijuana, THC, can impair your abilities and no one should drive under the influence of any substance that would cause them to be impaired. The problem with marijuana versus alcohol is in the testing methods that the police will employ. Marijuana can not be detected by a breathalyzer and a blood or urine test will reveal a positive result if the user has taken the drug in the last 30-60 days. The effects of marijuana do not last longer than a few hours to up a full day.

marijuana testingThe field sobriety tests are a somewhat useful method to assess a driver’s ability to be on the road. These methods include the police officer requesting the driver to recite the alphabet in reverse, stand on one-leg, or focus on the officer’s finger as he moves it in a horizontal line across the driver’s face. All of these tests are rated 65-75% accurate by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration. This includes no chemical tests and might not hold up well as evidence in court if your attorney is able to argue against them well. Marijuana has the well-known effect of making the user’s sclera, which is the whites of the eye, appear red but this can be solved easily by the user applying eye drops. Also, all of these tests, including visible red sclera, can just be the result of fatigue.

The new chemical method for testing drug use is called the saliva swab test. It takes approximately 10 minutes to administer and checks for trace amounts of THC and other illegal and prescription drugs potentially in the driver’s bloodstream. The test is either positive or negative so any positive results would be cause for a DUI. The tests are not very effective as they can show false positives for something as simple as sugar. Marijuana use can still show a positive result with the saliva swab test up to three days after the user takes the drug.

You do not have to submit to a field sobriety or chemical test and can state you will not provide any further statements until your attorney is present. The police may not search your vehicle without your expressed permission or without probable cause. If you travel with marijuana you purchased from a store, it is advisable to keep it out of sight along with any smoking devices. Since the law has opened the market to the sale of several edible and other non-smokable variations, the police may look for other reasons to cite a probable cause. Know your rights and be careful on the road. DUI checkpoints are meant to help public safety matters, but there are also times when an innocent person is suspected without cause and has their rights have been violated.

11 Sep 2017

Landlord Evicts Renters To Use Rooms For Airbnb

Six tenants in Los Angeles recently lost their apartments because it was a rent-controlled building. The landlord evicted the tenants and stated that the building would undergo remodeling. Very shortly after their evictions, one of the tenants discovered their unit was available to stay at on the Airbnb website. He spoke with other victims in his building and at least six of them discovered the same situation. The tenants have filed a lawsuit against the building owner and Airbnb, they cite that the eviction was illegal and violates Los Angeles rent control laws.

airbnb eviction caseThe RSO, Rent Stabilization Ordinance, applies to buildings built prior to October 1, 1978, in Los Angeles that are used as apartments. It states that the rent shall only increase 3% annually and 4% annually if the landlord pays gas and/or electricity for the unit. There are also parts of the law that state the reasons for a valid eviction and the payout sum if the tenant must demolish the building for reconstruction. If the tenant violates some negotiations of the rental terms such as late rent or illegal or malicious behavior then the owner has cause to evict the tenant. If, as in this case, the landlord decides to evict the tenants in order to demolish the building and rebuild, as a newer set of units, to raise the rent, the owner must pay out the moving costs to the tenant along with an additional sum for the inconvenience. This owner, in this case, did not pay anything to the tenants. This is a direct violation of the RSO law. The landlord’s attorney addressed the issue stating that the units are still intended to be demolished in the coming month. The unit currently stands as is, two months after the fact.

The evicted tenants are also suing the company Airbnb. Airbnb is refusing to comment on the issue but points to their business model that the site is intended for individuals to use to generate extra income and not for landlords to use as a hotel. The evicted tenants are claiming that Airbnb worked in a joint venture to skim money off the units.

If the building was going to be demolished, then the tenants should have been able to remain on the premises, as long as it was safe to live in. If any of them left early of their own free-will, then the owner does have some ability to allow paying guests to stay there, but kicking long-term residents out of their homes prematurely, is against Airbnb’s policy and Los Angeles law. In Los Angeles, an owner can remove a tenant if they plan to take it off the market. In this case, the unit remained available but at a higher rate. Los Angeles is currently facing a 30,000 unit housing shortage, which will make the situation difficult for the evicted tenants as they will most likely pay a drastic increase at their new units. Given the move-out costs and now the legal fees of litigation, the landlord might not see profits from this decision.

 

29 Aug 2017

How the New Merit-Based Policy Will Affect Immigration

There have been a lot of changes in immigration policies and procedures this year. Mostly due to the change of the presidential administration and its view for a much stricter policy towards entering the United States. From talks about a border wall to prevent crossing from Mexico and a ban against travel from specific countries, even for tourism, it is becoming harder for anyone to enter the country despite having valid reasons to be here. In August, there was a new system officially called the RAISE Act, Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment, also known as, the merit-based entry system, that favors people in their late 20’s who have advanced degrees, speak fluent English, and have a job offer with a high-end salary. This Act has not been passed by Congress yet so it remains a “bill” and with the current status, it’s likely to see many changes undergo before it sees a vote. The bill also adds a 50,000 cap to the annual flux of refugees waiting to enter the country and will cut the entire lottery program for those countries who have smaller percentages of immigration to the United States.

immigration policy lawyerMany senators fear that this will cut the much-needed labor force which much of the country’s commercial economy depends on. Even anti-immigration politicians see this as an attack against those citizens who currently live here in the United States, who are now up against the harder competition. Supporters of the bill claim the RAISE Act will increase the average pay for current workers in the country, yet most economists disagree. The idea that the bill is trying to undo, is the current system that provides preferential immigration to those who already have family members in the country. The bill will help those who can assimilate easily without a strong family and culture base by allowing only the people who speak English and have well-paying jobs. It hopes to cut the total annual immigration numbers by 50% over the next ten years but the requirements are on a point based system with absurdly high expectations. There are no points if you are over the age of 50, if you have a job offer that makes less than $77,900, or if you have less than $1.8 million in your account, that you are willing to invest in the country.

This system works if you have plenty of money to spare but for those who are looking for a better life, there are a lot of closed doors. Since the bill is still up for debate there is currently no official change in policy. If the bill does pass, it is likely to undergo several reforms but as each person’s situation is unique, consulting with an immigration attorney is the best way to understand how this will change your current immigration status. Reviews of the bill have pointed that immigrants from India will have the most favored chances with the RAISE Act if they have an advanced degree, speak fluent English, and are between the ages of 26-34.

28 Nov 2016

What a Landlord Can and Cannot Do in a California Eviction

What a Landlord Can and Cannot Do in a California Eviction

In California, the only way to legally evict someone is by filing an “Unlawful Detainer” lawsuit. The laws governing eviction are very complicated and require landlords take specific steps for an eviction to be legal.

A landlord MUST give notice to terminate

California law requires landlords legally terminate tenancy before evicting someone. Tenancy can be terminated early for several reasons, including failure to pay rent, violating terms of the lease, or committing an illegal act. If there is cause, the landlord must give the following notice:

  • 3-day notice to pay rent
  • 3-day notice to cure or correct a violation
  • 3-day unconditional quit notice if the tenant commits a serious violation

If the lease is being terminated without cause, the notice depends on the lease term. If the tenant has a month-to-month agreement and has lived in the unit for less than one year, 30-day written notice is required. If the tenant has lived in the unit for 12+ months on a month-to-month lease, 60-day notice is required. For a fixed-term lease, the landlord cannot end the tenancy early without cause.

A landlord MUST serve notice properly

Not just any type of notice of eviction will work. A 3-day, 30-day, or 60-day notice to the tenant must be served correctly to be legally effective to ensure the tenant actually receives the notice. A landlord can send notice by:

  • Personal service, which means personally handing the notice to the tenant or leaving it with the tenant if the tenant refuses to take it. If the landlord does not find the tenant at home, the landlord can serve the notice personally at the tenant’s place of work. If neither option works, substituted service is allowed by serving the notice with someone of sufficient age and discretion at the tenant’s home or work AND mailing a copy of the notice to the tenant’s home.
  • Posting and mailing notice. In this case, the notice can be served by taping a copy of the notice to the rental property in a conspicuous area like the front door and mailing a copy to the rental unit’s address.

A landlord MUST give the tenant the option to correct a violation
If a landlord gives a 3-day notice and the reason can be corrected, the landlord must give the tenant the option of correcting the violation. This is true in cases where rent is behind or the tenant has a pet that is barred by the lease agreement or violating some other term of the lease, for example.

A landlord can NOT end a fixed lease without reason

If you have a fixed-term lease that lasts longer than one month, your landlord cannot end your tenancy without cause, such as violating the terms of your lease or failing to pay rent.

A landlord can NOT personally remove a tenant from the property

Under California law, it is illegal for a landlord to remove someone from the unit. The only way to legally evict a tenant is to win an eviction lawsuit at which point a sheriff will perform the eviction. This means a landlord cannot change the locks, remove a tenant’s property, or turn off heat or electricity, for example.

If you are facing eviction, a landlord tenant attorney may be able to help if you are dealing with retaliatory eviction, an eviction that was not done legally or following proper procedure, or you have another defense to the eviction. Contact Soliman Law Group for a free consultation with an experienced West Los Angeles landlord tenant attorney.

22 Nov 2016

Want to Use the Repair & Deduct Strategy as a Tenant Be Sure You Follow the Rules

Want to Use the Repair & Deduct Strategy as a Tenant? Be Sure You Follow the Rules!

The “repair and deduct” strategy is a powerful tool tenants can use when a landlord refuses to pay for necessary repairs to a rental property. While you are well within your rights to repair defects yourself and deduct the cost from the rent, this must be done correctly or it will be you who is in trouble.

Here’s what you should know about the conditions and procedures that must be followed to use the repair and deduct strategy as a tenant in California.

It Must Be an Issue of Habitability

You can’t repair minor problems and deduct the cost from your rent, but you can if the issue affects your safety or health as a tenant. Be sure to consider this before you employ the repair and deduct strategy. You can certainly use the repair and deduct method to deal with issues like:

  • Leaking plumbing
  • Water heater issues
  • Thermostat problems
  • Broken front door lock
  • Broken window

It’s important to note that the conditions do not need to be so bad that they justify withholding rent, which requires a substantial reduction in habitability.

You Must Inform the Landlord

The landlord must be informed of the problems and given a chance to correct them. After all, the “repair and deduct” remedy actually involves spending the landlord’s money against his will and potentially hiring contractors at a greater expense than he could have done. The best way to inform the landlord is to do it in writing and identify the issues, how they affect you, whether they pose a safety or health risk, what needs to be done, and when it should be done. Send the letter by certified mail, keep a copy, and take pictures of the conditions.

The Landlord Needs a Reasonable Amount of Time to Fix the Problem

30 days is presumed to be a reasonable amount of time to correct most habitability issues for a landlord, unless the problem severely affects tenants (such as no working toilet, no electricity, or a broken front door lock) or the problem can be fixed quickly by qualified, available workers.

Take Care in Hiring a Repairman

After you wait a reasonable amount of time for the landlord to fix it, you can call in a repairman. It’s important to note that you cannot charge for your own time, even if you are qualified. Be sure you hire a qualified, licensed contractor to perform the work. Get an estimate for the job, pay out of pocket for the repairs and labor, and use your paid invoice as a receipt. You do not need to choose the cheapest contractor as this is the risk the landlord takes in not fixing the problem when he or she was informed. If the item must be replaced because it cannot be repaired, that is fine but be sure the contractor notes this on the invoice.

Work Cannot Exceed One Month’s Rent

The work done cannot exceed one month’s rent and you can only use this remedy twice in a 12-month time period. It is possible to have several defects repaired at once as long as they do not exceed one month’s rent.

Deduct the Cost from Your Rent

Once the work is done, total up your receipts and write down this amount. Subtract it from your normal rent amount and pay that new amount in rent for the next month. Be sure to note “Repair and deduct – [Month] rent” in the memo on the check. Make copies of your receipts and calculations and include a cover letter for your deductions that explains that you repaired and deducted for items covered by Civil Code 1942. While these steps are not legally required, they can protect you if your landlord attempts to evict you for failure to pay rent.

Finally, it’s important to protect yourself by keeping a log and all documentation, including where the defect is located, photographic evidence of the defect, when and how the landlord was informed, when you took action, how the defect was repaired, and copies of your letter to your landlord, and invoice from the contractor.

15 Nov 2016

Marijuana Arrests Drop in 2015 to Lowest Level Since 1996

Marijuana Arrests Drop in 2015 to Lowest Level Since 1996, Remain Higher than Violent Crime Arrests

While the outdated claim that marijuana is a dangerous and highly addictive gateway drug has been largely discredited by decades of research, cannabis is still classified as a Schedule 1 narcotic by the federal government and people still face arrest and prosecution for possession and sale of marijuana, even when a violent crime has not been committed.

According to a recent analysis published by the Washington Post [https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/09/26/marijuana-arrests-fall-to-lowest-level-since-1996/], the number of marijuana possession arrests declined 7% in 2015 to 575,000, the lowest level since 1996 according to new FBI unified crime statistics.

This is a 35% decline in marijuana arrests since 2007, when arrests reached a peak of 800,000. In general, this indicates police are putting less effort into enforcing federal and, in some cases, state laws.

Still, a joint report called “Every 25 Seconds: The Human Toll of Criminalizing Drug Use in the United States” issued by the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch found the 575,000 marijuana arrests last year were for low-level personal use was almost 14% more than the 506,000 arrests for all violent crimes in 2015. That includes serious assault, rape, and murder arrests.

The report also highlights an issue in which the system coerces guilty pleas from people charged with drug crimes, even if they are not guilty. Over 99% of people convicted for drug possession in 2009 pleaded guilty in the 75 largest counties in the United States and most in at least two states were poor enough to qualify for a court-appointed attorney yet had a bail amount of almost $40,000 on average.

This problem also exists in California. While medical marijuana has been legal in California for 20 years, more than 500,000 people have been arrested for marijuana in the last decade.

If you have been arrested for marijuana possession, cultivation, or sales, there are many defenses that can be explored to reduce the risk of conviction. Contact Soliman Law Group for a free consultation with an experienced marijuana defense attorney in West Los Angeles to discuss your case.

07 Nov 2016

Diversity Visa Lottery Registration Period Ends

Diversity Visa Lottery Registration Period Ends November 7

The registration period for the mandated 2018 Diversity Visa (DV) lottery began on October 4, 2016 and ends on November, 7, 2016 at 12:00 pm EST. Online registration is available.

The DV lottery allows nationals from eligible countries to apply for a green card outside of the standard visa process. People who are already sponsored for an immigrant visa by a family member or employer are also eligible to participate in the lottery. Every year, 50,000 green card lottery slots are available with winners chosen through a random drawing.

Qualifications for the DV Lottery

The DV lottery requires that an applicant have a high school education or equivalent as well as two years of qualifying work experience in the last five years. Only the principal applicant needs to meet this requirement, not a spouse or children. You can confirm your qualifications through the U.S. State Department [https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/immigrate/diversity-visa/if-you-are-selected/confirm-your-qualifications.html].

Eligibility by Country

Only nationals of certain countries are eligible for the DV lottery, but most countries are eligible in 2018. For the 2018 DV lottery, natives of the following countries are NOT eligible for the program this year:

  • Bangladesh
  • Brazil
  • Canada
  • China (mainland-born)
  • Colombia
  • Dominican Republic
  • El Salvador
  • Haiti
  • India
  • Jamaica
  • Mexico
  • Nigeria
  • Pakistan
  • Peru
  • Philippines
  • South Korea
  • United Kingdom and dependent territories (not Northern Ireland)
  • Vietnam

Different countries are selected each year based on which nations sent the fewest immigrants to the U.S. in the last 5 years based on their population.

If you are a native of an ineligible country, you may still become eligible to apply for the DV Lottery if your spouse was born in an eligible country or if neither of your parents was born in your native country or made a home there when you were born, in which case you may be able to claim one of your parents’ birth countries as your own.

If you are interested in applying for the DV Lottery, it’s important to do so as soon as possible. If you are notified that you have won the lottery, follow up immediately because the government always declares more winners than available green cards and the supply may run out if you do not follow up. If you win the lottery, it’s important to hire an experienced Los Angeles immigration attorney to help you as the USCIS may get backed up for months without action.