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A common problem in business that leads to litigation is when someone such as an ex-employee or a business partner is found stealing clients from the company.  An employee might leave your employment taking clients, or worse- the company’s client list, with them. Or maybe your business partner has started acquiring clients and secretly keeping them, and the profits, for himself? In Washington it is possible to bring a civil lawsuit against an employee or business partner if you find that they have stolen clients under a claim of Tortious Interference. 

Tortious Interference Claims in Washington State

To be successful in a Tortious Interference lawsuit you will need to prove:

– Existence of a valid contractual relationship or business expectancy;

You or your business realized damages because of their actions;

The employee or business partner:

– Knew of the relationship or expectancy;

– Intentionally interfered and that caused a breach or termination of the client relationship or business expectancy; and

– Interfered for an improper purpose or used improper means

Interference with Business Client Relationships 

The success of this type of case relies heavily on the specific facts and the situation you present to the court. You will need to show that the defendant intentionally interfered with your client relationship. Similarly, you will need to show that the interference was wrongful based on their conduct and motives. The court will examine their existing relationship to the client as well as the client’s contractual interests. The defendant may defend their actions by attempting to show that they acted in good faith to protect an existing legal right or financial interest and not just to obtain new customers. They may also claim that their actions were merely competition for the client’s business and not motivated by bad faith or using wrongful means to interfere.

The existence of a valid contractual relationship does not require you to prove you had an existing contract with the lost client.  It can be sufficient to show that you had a relationship with the client. In addition you may need to show that you were both contemplating a contract and that you had a reasonable expectation that the transaction would occur. It will also be necessary to show that the defendant’s interference was what actually caused you to lose the client and that it was not due to your own fault or another unrelated cause. If you have experienced interference with your clients and you wish to recover your losses, you will want to consider a civil lawsuit. 

This type of litigation is very complex so you may want to consult an experienced attorney who is knowledgeable in the area of business law to ensure the best possible outcome in your case. Please contact us if you have questions about your business affairs at info@brumleylawfirm.com or (253) 236- 4079.

Someone is stealing my business clients, what can I do?

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Washington may have legalized marijuana many years ago but it does not allow driving under the influence of the substance. A DUI for marijuana carries the same penalties as one for alcohol. If you are arrested for a marijuana DUI you will be faced with an administrative proceeding in the Washington Department of Licensing as well as the criminal case. If you are convicted for a first offense in the criminal court you could lose your driver’s license. You may also have to pay fines of $350 to $1000, spend one to 364 days in jail or be subjected to court ordered drug rehabilitation.

Field Sobriety Tests and Blood Tests for Marijuana

If a police officer finds probable cause for a DUI stop and suspects marijuana impairment they will assess your demeanor and look for signs. These include the smell of marijuana, bloodshot eyes, or marijuana present in the car. The officer will most likely administer a field sobriety test. An officer who is trained as a ‘drug recognition expert’ may be called to the scene to administer the test. If you appear too intoxicated to drive you can be arrested. You should be advised of your rights concerning giving blood for a lab test. Under Washington’s Implied Consent laws you will face harsh consequences, including a minimum license suspension of one year, if you refuse the test. The officer can then apply for a search warrant to get a sample of your blood to determine the concentration of marijuana in your system. 

Marijuana Impairment in Washington

In Washington the level of marijuana currently considered to be a legal impairment is 5ng of THC per milliliter of blood. Marijuana can remain in your system for a prolonged period of time. You may not feel intoxicated but you could still test above the legal limit. Some studies have shown that heavy users of marijuana can test at 5ng/ml from 24 hours up to an astonishing 129 hours after the last ingestion of the substance. 

Defenses to Drug DUI Charges

An experienced DUI lawyer can present many defenses to a Drug DUI charge including challenging the validity of the traffic stop, the accuracy and timing of any testing, the expertise of the officer as a drug recognition expert as well as whether or not your driving was actually legally impaired by marijuana. If you have questions about a marijuana DUI please contact us at info@brumleylawfirm.com or (253) 236- 4079.

Can I get a DUI if I use marijuana?

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License Suspended after DUI Arrest in Washington

If you are arrested for a DUI, the Washington State Department of Licensing will automatically suspend your driver’s license unless you request a hearing to contest the license suspension within 7 days of your arrest and the Hearing Examiner finds in your favor. The suspension can last for 90 days up to two years depending on the facts of your case and whether you have any prior offenses.

Many people wonder if they should request the hearing or wait for a criminal court date or if they need an attorney at this stage. An experienced DUI attorney can organize and present your case in the most favorable light to persuade the Hearing Examiner and avoid the immediate license suspension.

While there is a filing fee of $375 for the hearing, it is a chance at keeping your license and will allow your attorney to access the police report and to subpoena the police officer and question him under oath concerning the arrest. This early intervention and investigation may be beneficial to your criminal case even if you do not prevail at the Department of Licensing hearing. If you do not succeed at the hearing you may request an Ignition Interlock Driver License (IIL) that will allow you to drive a vehicle equipped with an ignition interlock device for the period of your suspension or revocation.

License Suspended after DUI Conviction

The license suspension penalties and other legal liabilities only increase after a criminal conviction. A lawyer with experience in DUI litigation will help you get the best possible outcome in court as they will highlight legal flaws in the evidence, identify issues with police procedures and be familiar with successful defenses for your case. If you are convicted of a DUI in criminal court, the Department of Licensing may suspend your license for 90 days up to 4 years depending on the severity of the infraction and any prior offenses on your record. You will receive credit for any pre-conviction license suspension time you served after arrest. You may request an Ignition Interlock Driver License for suspensions from a court conviction.

Reinstatement of Driver’s License

When the period of suspension is completed you will need to have your license reinstated. You will be required to file proof of financial responsibility (SR-22) (which in many cases will be required for 3 years) as well as satisfying any remaining court requirements and fines and paying a licensing and reinstatement fee.

Do you have questions about your DUI case? We can help. Please contact info@brumleylawfirm.com or (253) 236- 4079.

I got arrested for a DUI in Washington State, will I lose my drivers license?

If you have questions about your case, please contact us at Info@brumleylawfirm.com or (253) 236-4079.

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Embezzlement is Theft

Many business partnerships must confront the issue of a partner unlawfully taking money from the company. Business partners have a statutory fiduciary duty to protect the business and the other partners. Embezzlement is a type of theft where the property, or money, is wrongfully acquired by a person in a position of trust within the company. If you believe that a business partner is currently stealing from your company and embezzling money, you must proceed cautiously and take steps to protect yourself and your company. A thorough review of any written partnership agreements, articles or by- laws, shareholder agreements, operating agreements or any other existing agreements between the partners along with the governing state laws is an important first step in deciding how you will proceed in this difficult situation. 

Theft by a Business Partner

It is essential to gather real evidence to prove that the theft actually occurred, or is still occurring, and is not simply a mistake or possibly an innocent accounting error. This must be accomplished while also protecting the current operations of the business. There are many possible routes to obtaining such evidence depending on your business and the specific situation involved. Consider options such as placing controls on all business banking and credit accounts to track the flow of money and of business assets and to require detailed receipts for all business expenditures. You may also want to conduct an audit of the business inventory and of the bookkeeping. It could also You may even consider placing surveillance equipment on computers or cash drawers or to employ forensic accounting to help gather the necessary evidence.

Recovering Money and Assets from your Business Partner

You may wish to consider a civil action by filing a lawsuit. Filing one against your partner for fraud, embezzlement, breach of fiduciary duty or breach of contract could recover the lost assets and damages to your business. Additionally, you may also want to file an action to dissociate, or remove, your business partner from your company or possibly to dissolve the company. To further complicate matters, there may be resulting tax consequences and penalties if income and expenses were misreported along with the expenses of correcting the company’s bookkeeping which you may wish to recover. 

If you are experiencing problems within your company and suspect one or more of your business partners may be embezzling money, please contact us at info@brumleylawfirm.com or call (253) 236-4079 with any questions. 

What do I do if I discover my business partner has been embezzling money from our business?

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A written partnership agreement is always beneficial when starting a new business but they are not required. Often, people start a new business partnership with great enthusiasm and optimism. They usually don’t expect that a serious problem may arise that requires them to dissolve a business partnership. If your business partnership exists without a formal agreement and no written governing documents it is considered a general partnership and it will be governed by state law in Washington as well as any applicable case law.

Ending a Business Partnership

Business partners may find themselves at odds for any number of reasons and often the only solution is to end the partnership. Sometimes this is relatively simple- the partners might agree that one will buy out another or they mutually agree to sell the business or end the partnership. Unfortunately, amicable solutions are not always possible and it may become necessary to ask the courts to get involved. 

No Formal Partnership Agreement

In cases not governed by a formal partnership agreement, the courts can expel or dissolve a business in several instances where a partner:

– Is found to have engaged in wrongful conduct that adversely and materially affected the partnership business

– Committed a material breach of a legal duty to the partnership or other partners

– Engaged in conduct relating to the business that makes it not reasonably practicable to carry on with that partner

In determining whether to dissociate a partner or dissolve a partnership business in such a legal action, the courts will look to the facts of the individual case to determine whether the partner’s conduct rises to the level required by the statute. 

Winding Up a Business and Tax Liability 

When a partnership dissolves it must still complete the process of winding up the business of the partnership. An accounting must be made of all the partnership’s assets and debts. This will include all partnership assets and outstanding business debts or other obligations. This includes, but is not limited to, items such as payroll, real property, inventory and intellectual property. If the assets of the partnership cannot cover the obligations then the individual partners are responsible for the remainder. If the partnership assets exceed the obligations the remainder is distributed to the partners. The partnership will additionally need to file IRS Form 1065 on behalf of the business and the partners will be responsible for their individual taxes related to operating the business.

Dissolving a business partnership can be fraught with unexpected difficulties. An experienced attorney can guide you through this process. Please contact us at info@brumleylawfirm.com or (2530 236-4079 if you have questions about your business.

How do I end my business partnership if we never made a formal agreement?

If you have questions about your case, please contact us at Info@brumleylawfirm.com or (253) 236-4079.

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Business sense means more than interpreting a profit and loss statement and it can be more complex than any tax code. Running a successful business requires a level of vigilance and preparedness that can be problematic for most first-time entrepreneurs. It’s the reason that many businesses close before their first year; most before showing any measurable profit.

Business Planning

All businesses start with the best of intentions, but why do so many close—and so soon? It all boils down to the same error: Poor Planning. Imagine building a brick house with a mattress as a foundation: you might get by for a few months, but then the bricks start to shift and the whole thing comes crashing down around you- definitely not where you want to be. 

Hard work, enthusiasm and great ideas will only get you so far, careful planning makes the difference. That’s where a qualified business attorney can make all the difference to your success.  

Brumley Law Firm, PLLC offers the expertise of two attorneys who are also MBA graduates- Joshua R. Brumley, our managing partner, and Laura Tochney. They are prepared to handle your business needs; the ones you’ve identified as well as those potential pitfalls you haven’t yet considered. Our team is ready to meet you where you are and work with you to develop a plan to help your business thrive.  

Business Formation in Washington

Brumley Law Firm, PLLC offers members of our business community support in three key areas: 

  1. Formation—Start your business on the best possible footing. We’ll help you navigate the complexities of partnership formation. Is an LLC the way to go? How will my income be taxed?
  2. Defense—Once you’re off and running with a healthy balance sheet, you become a target. Do you have sufficient insurance to protect your business? What’s your online reputation? Are you a target of a disgruntled employee with an ax to grind? Are your contracts up to legal scrutiny? Do you have adequate employee practices and procedures?
  3. Revenue—Your collectibles are high- what’s your plan for collecting that debt?  A targeted collection letter is a low-cost attorney engagement that can get you results. 

The day-to-day operations requires all of your focus. Having a qualified business attorney at the ready frees you up to perform the services or provide the goods that motivated you to become a businessperson.  

Contact the Brumley Law Firm, PLLC, and make an appointment for a free business consultation to discuss the ways that partnering with our firm can protect your investment, your passion, and your bottom line.  info@brumleylawfirm.com or (253) 236- 4079.

How can I ensure the success of my new business?

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In Washington it is a misdemeanor for the driver of a vehicle to refuse to give a police officer his or her driver’s license, vehicle registration and insurance identification card when he is pulled over for a traffic violation. On the other hand, the passengers in a car are not in control of the vehicle and their identity did not cause the police to stop the driver. This doesn’t stop the officer from attempting to get as much information as possible leaving passengers to wonder what they are required to do if the officer begins to question them or asks them for identification. 

A Passenger’s Rights in Washington

In Washington State the passengers of a vehicle are seen as independent of the driver and regarded as having undiminished privacy rights when the vehicle is pulled over by the police.  The officer may ask a passenger for identification. He or she may ask passengers other questions as well. What is important to know is that in Washington the officer may not require passengers to give identification and a passenger is not required to answer questions and may decline to answer. The passenger would even be free to exit the car and walk away from the scene unless the officers could later convince the court that they had specific facts that made them believe that their safety was at risk or they had probable cause to believe the passenger had committed a crime.

If you are a passenger when pulled over in a traffic stop you may refuse to give the officer your ID or answer questions but please remember that it is always in your best interests to remain calm and polite when asserting your rights. 

Circumstances that can Change the Rights of the Passenger

As with all legal matters, there are exceptions to these rules. These exceptions include circumstances such as when the officer has legitimate safety concerns or the officer has probable cause to believe that the passenger has committed a crime. These exceptions would allow the officer to question passengers or even to order the passengers out of the car or to remain in the car. Additionally in cases where the police have arrested the driver for a criminal offense, the nature of the stop changes and it is assumed that there could be safety concerns as well as the possibility of the destruction or hiding of evidence. If you have questions regarding a criminal case please contact us at info@brumleylawfirm.com or (253) 236- 4079.

My friend just got pulled over and I’m a passenger in the car, do I have to show my license too?

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No one wants it to happen but sometimes we find ourselves in a terrible situation that leads to the unthinkable- going to jail. It is a good idea to be prepared and have an idea of what might happen if you are arrested. 

What Happens When You Get Arrested

An arrest can be made with an arrest warrant or without a warrant if probable cause and exigent circumstances exist at the time of the arrest. The officer has probable cause if he has a reasonable belief that the suspect committed a crime based on the facts he has at the time of arrest.

If the officer only asks a few questions or requests identification it is likely not an arrest. A  police officer will usually tell you that you are being arrested but if you are in doubt you may (politely) ask if you are free to go. If you have been handcuffed or placed in a patrol car it is reasonable to assume you are under arrest. Once you have been legally arrested a police officer can perform a limited search of your person and the area within your immediate control to ensure you don’t have a weapon or a chance to destroy evidence. 

What Are My Rights When I’m Arrested

When you are arrested you have the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney when being questioned by the police. It is important to note that in Washington the police are not required to give you this “Miranda Rights” warning unless they are actually questioning you. You may answer basic questions such as your name but be aware that you are not required to answer questions about specific crimes and should invoke your rights if asked to do so.

The importance of these rights cannot be overstated. Once you have been arrested, the police will be taking note of any information you volunteer to them whether you have been read your rights yet or not. It is in your best interest to exercise your rights and remain silent and request an attorney

What Happens When I Arrive at the County Jail

Once arrested, the police will transport and book you into the jail in the county in which you were arrested. The booking process involves taking your information and checking for warrants, making an inventory of your personal property and storing it, fingerprinting and mugshots. For some minor offenses you may be released and given a court date to attend. Some misdemeanor offenses will have preset bail amounts that you can pay and be released until your court date. In other situations you will be brought before a judge to set bail within 48 hours. It is possible to request reduced bail or different conditions of release. You may want to consult an attorney to get the most favorable terms for release. If you have questions about a criminal case, contact us at info@brumleylawfirm.com or (253) 236- 4079.

What happens when I get arrested?

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Implied Consent in Washington DUI cases

Washington has an Implied Consent law that states that anyone who operates a motor vehicle within the state is deemed to have given consent to a breathalyzer if arrested and the officer has reasonable grounds to believe the person had been driving or was in actual physical control of a motor vehicle while under the influence alcohol or drugs. You still have the right to refuse a breathalyzer test, but you should carefully consider the consequences before doing so. Typically during a DUI stop and arrest there will be two opportunities to take a breathalyzer: one with a portable machine (PBT) during the roadside stop and a second one at the police station after arrest. The consequences of choosing to refuse a test are connected to the test at the station after arrest.

Evidence in DUI Cases

Sometimes people feel that it might be better to not take the test if they think they will fail or that they will be in a better position to avoid a DUI conviction if they don’t give the police the chance to get the evidence. Unfortunately, a breathalyzer is not required to sustain a DUI conviction and the officer will begin gathering evidence as soon as he or she first observes any behavior that could indicate intoxication.

The officer will be taking note of your condition based on observations of erratic driving, your demeanor and physical presentation, the smell of alcohol or marijuana as well as the results of any field sobriety tests they administer. Additionally, the police can obtain a search warrant subsequent to an arrest for a blood test to determine intoxication if you refuse to take a breathalyzer or if marijuana intoxication is suspected. Refusing to take the breathalyzer at the police station is admissible in court in a DUI case and the prosecutor will attempt to use it to show that you refused because you knew you would fail the test.

Punishment for Refusing a Breathalyzer

The punishments for refusing a breathalyzer are harsher than those for a DUI conviction; for example, refusing a breathalyzer comes with a minimum one year license suspension whereas a DUI requires a minimum of 90 days. These penalties increase if this is not your first offense. It is also important to understand that even if you beat the DUI charge at trial, refusing to take the breathalyzer will cause you to lose your license for a year. 

The decision whether or not to take a breathalyzer is a very serious one and best done after consulting an experienced DUI attorney. If you are facing a DUI charge and have questions, please contact us at info@brumleylawfirm.com or (253) 236- 4079.

If I get pulled over for a DUI should I refuse a breathalyzer test?

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Can I get a DUI in a parked car? Washington’s “Physical Control” statute makes it a Gross Misdemeanor to be in physical control of an operable vehicle while under the influence of an intoxicating liquor or other substance. It carries the same penalties as a DUI. The penalties for a first offense include mandatory jail time of a minimum of 24 hours up to 364 days, loss of your driver’s license and fines. Penalties increase significantly with subsequent offenses. 

Physical Control of the Vehicle

The statute does not specifically define what is meant by “physical control” or an “operable vehicle” and it has been interpreted rather broadly by the courts. Many people charged with Physical Control offenses had no idea they were breaking the law because they were not driving or even planning to drive the car. This can occur in situations where someone is sitting in the car waiting to sober up or even waiting for a ride so they would not drive under the influence.

Other cases have found defendants guilty of a Physical Control offense where they were sitting in the driver’s seat of a parked car that was out of gas or in a broken down car where the evidence inferred that the defendant drove the vehicle to the point where it became inoperable. The steep penalties coupled with the wildly varying definitions of what constitutes a Physical Control charge make defending oneself in this type of case complicated. An experienced attorney will be able to present your case in the best light to protect your interests while avoiding the pitfalls of overly broad interpretations of this statute. 

Defenses to a DUI in a Parked Car

In the interests of public safety, there is a valid defense in the statute: if prior to being pursued by a law enforcement officer, the person has moved the vehicle safely off the roadway. A vehicle is considered to be “safely off the roadway” when the situation no longer poses a danger to the public. An example of this defense used successfully is where the car was pulled off the roadway and parked in a parking lot with the engine turned off and the driver asleep inside the car. This same defense failed in another case where the driver pulled the car into a parking lot, but not into a parking space, and left the engine running and transmission in Drive while sleeping and intoxicated. These two somewhat similar scenarios illustrate the types of situations that do and don’t promote public safety in the manner envisioned by the statute.

Physical Control charges are vague and leave much to be decided by the court or jury based on the presentation of the facts of the case. A lawyer who is familiar with the intricacies of these prosecutions is a key factor to your successful defense. If you have questions, please contact us at info@brumleylawfirm.com or (253) 236- 4079. 

Can I really get a DUI if I was just sitting in my parked car in Washington?

If you have questions about your case, please contact us at Info@brumleylawfirm.com or (253) 236-4079.