my account

Frequently Asked Legal Questions

Find answers to common questions in our searchable FAQ.

I want to sell my gun to another person in Texas. How can I do that?

170817 views   |   521   |   Last updated on Oct 22, 2021    Guns

Can I sell my own gun? Do I need a license?

Federal law requires a person to obtain a license to sell firearms if the person is engaged in the business of dealing firearms. According to this handbook from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF):

As a general rule, you will need a license if you repetitively buy and sell firearms with the principal motive of making a profit. In contrast, if you only make occasional sales of firearms from your personal collection, you do not need to be licensed. [...] Determining whether you are "engaged in the business" of dealing in firearms requires looking at the specific facts and circumstances of your activities.

See the handbook for more detailed information about when you need a Federal Firearms License (FFL) to conduct firearm sales.

Who can I sell to?

Our librarians are not able to give advice on any particular sale, so if you are not sure whether it would be legal to sell your gun to a certain person it is best to ask an attorney. You could also conduct the sale with the help of an FFL dealer who could run a background check on the buyer. Below we've listed some general legal requirements for private sales, but this page should not be considered a complete list of requirements.

Private sellers may not sell their firearm if:

Do I need to run a background check?

Private sellers are not required by federal law or Texas law to do a background check before selling a firearm. If you are selling your gun to another person and you would like to run a NICS background check before the sale, you could arrange to do the sale through an FFL dealer. The FBI does not offer NICS background check services to the general public.

What records do I need to keep when conducting the sale?

Neither federal law nor Texas law requires private sellers to keep a record when they sell a firearm. FFL dealers are required to keep records of their sales, but these requirements do not apply to private sellers. Even though it is not required by law, you may want to keep a record of the sale for your own purposes. See this ATF brochure for best practices to follow when selling a firearm.

Do I need to transfer the registration?

Many people who have contacted the library believe that the guns they purchased in Texas are "registered" to their name. However, neither the federal government nor the Texas government keeps a general registry of firearm ownership, except for certain specific types of firearms covered by the National Firearms Act (such as short-barreled shot guns or machine guns). We discuss this topic in greater detail in another FAQ.

Can I conduct the sale with the assistance of an FFL dealer?

Yes. As this handbook published by the ATF explains, FFL dealers can help you by handling a gun sale between you and the person you want to sell to. However, FLL dealers are not required by law to help with private sales, so you might need to call around to find someone who is willing to help you. FFL dealers will need to follow all the laws they normally follow when selling firearms, like running a background check and keeping records of the sale. Dealers can also charge a fee for their services. See the ATF handbook for more detailed information.


Can I carry a gun in my car? 

129069 views   |   409   |   Last updated on Dec 10, 2021    Guns Criminal Law


In Texas, a person can transport a handgun in their vehicle or a vehicle "under the person's control" if they are otherwise allowed to possess a firearm, with some exceptions. If the handgun is in "plain view," a person must be over 21 or have a License to Carry (LTC) and have the firearm in a holster. House Bill 1927 eliminated the requirement to have a License to Carry (LTC) to keep a handgun in plain view within a vehicle.

Handguns

Generally speaking, Texas law allows qualified people to transport a handgun in their vehicle or in a vehicle "under the person's control". They must be otherwise allowed to possess a firearm.

Texas Penal Code Section 46.02 creates an offense for the unlawful carrying of handguns. The statute makes an exception to unlawful carry in subsection (a)(3)(b) for those who are:

 (B) inside of or directly en route to a motor vehicle or watercraft that is owned by the person or under the person's control.

Other laws further restrict who can carry a handgun in a vehicle. Texas Penal Code Section 46.02 (a-1)(2) prohibits anyone involved in criminal activity from carrying in a vehicle or watercraft. Certain minor traffic or boating misdemeanors are exempted. Also, Section 46.04(a-1) of the Texas Penal Code prohibits a member of a criminal street gang from carrying a handgun in a motor vehicle or boat.

Prior to September 1st, 2021, only those with a Texas License to Carry (LTC) were permitted to keep a handgun in "plain view" within the vehicle. However, House Bill 1927 eliminated this requirement. See our FAQ on HB 1927 for more details. After September 1st, 2021, Texans who do not have an LTC but are otherwise eligible to carry a handgun in their vehicle can keep the gun in "plain view". The gun must be in a holster:

(a-1) A person commits an offense if the person intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly carries on or about his or her person a handgun in a motor vehicle or watercraft that is owned by the person or under the person's control at any time in which: (1) the handgun is in plain view, unless the person is 21 years of age or older or is licensed to carry a handgun under Subchapter H, Chapter 411, Government Code, and the handgun is carried in a holster;

Long Guns

We have not found any Texas laws that restrict transporting a rifle or other long gun in a motor vehicle or watercraft. We have also not been able to locate a law that would dictate if a long gun can be "in plain view" in the vehicle.

Other Restrictions

Texas law does not say where a gun should be stored when it is in a car, or whether it should be unloaded. It is important to keep in mind that other laws may prevent one from carrying a firearm at any time, or may restrict the location where firearms can be carried. For example, see Section 46.04 of the Penal Code, Unlawful Possession of Firearm.

The library also has more information on Texas and federal laws that govern where a firearm can and cannot be carried on the Carry of Firearms page of our Gun Laws research guide


Can I carry a weapon while wearing a mask? 

66895 views   |   175   |   Last updated on Sep 22, 2021    Guns Masks COVID-19

Many people who have contacted our library with this question are under the impression that it is illegal to carry a handgun while wearing a mask in Texas. However, our librarians have not been able to locate any state laws that explicitly prohibit the wearing of a mask while lawfully carrying a firearm, whether openly or concealed.

In fact, we have not been able to locate any state statutes currently in effect that address the wearing of masks in general. Texas previously had anti-mask laws, but these were repealed in 1974 and are not currently in effect. The Texas Governor had previously issued an executive order due to COVID-19 [PDF] that required people to wear a face covering in most public places (this executive order has been rescinded as of March 10th, 2021, so please check for any local orders regarding face masks or coverings that may be in place in your area). However, that order [PDF] did not mention the carrying of firearms.

There also seems to be a misconception regarding who can legally carry a handgun without a License to Carry (LTC) because the governor has issued executive orders related to the COVID-19 public health emergency. There is a state law that addresses carrying a handgun without a license when a state of disaster has been declared, but it is very narrow in scope. Read more about that law.

For more information about the carry of firearms generally, please see our Gun Laws guide. For more information about firearms during the COVID-19 pandemic, please see our COVID-19 & Texas Law research guide.


Do children have to be a certain age before they can be left alone at home?

61212 views   |   144   |   Last updated on Nov 20, 2019    Minors Family Law Criminal Law

The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services publishes information about leaving a child home alone. They state the following:

Texas law doesn't say what age is old enough for a child to stay at home alone. However, adequate supervision is critical to keeping kids safe. An adult caregiver is accountable for the child's care and inadequate supervision can be a type of neglect (neglectful supervision).

The Texas Penal Code also makes it a criminal offense to leave a child alone in a vehicle under certain circumstances. Click here to review section 22.10 of the Texas Penal Code.


Can a business charge a fee for using a credit card or a debit card instead of cash?

51350 views   |   76   |   Last updated on Jul 21, 2022    Consumer Protection


At this time, the legal status of Texas laws on credit and debit card surcharges is unclear due to recent federal litigation. As librarians, we cannot determine whether a business is able to charge a fee for a purchase made with a credit or debit card.

Texas statutes prohibit imposing a surcharge for using a credit or debit card as payment. However, it is unclear if the Texas laws remain enforceable after a recent federal lawsuit.

With certain exceptions, surcharges for using a credit card or a debit card are prohibited by Chapter 604A of the Texas Business and Commerce Code:

Sec. 604A.002. IMPOSITION OF SURCHARGE FOR USE OF DEBIT OR STORED VALUE CARD. (a) In a sale of goods or services, a merchant may not impose a surcharge on a buyer who uses a debit or stored value card instead of cash, a check, credit card, or a similar means of payment. […]

Sec. 604A.0021. IMPOSITION OF SURCHARGE FOR USE OF CREDIT CARD. (a) In a sale of goods or services, a seller may not impose a surcharge on a buyer who uses a credit card for an extension of credit instead of cash, a check, or a similar means of payment. […]

Also note that it is possible the agreement or contract between a merchant and a credit card or payment processing company may prohibit surcharges or fees.

Cash Discounts

Some merchants offer a discounted price for paying with cash. See the definition of "surcharge" at Section 604A.001(5) for language related to discounts for cash purchases. 

2018 Federal Lawsuit

On August 16, 2018, Judge Lee Yeakel issued an order that permanently enjoined the State of Texas from enforcing parts of the law against the merchants who had sued the Attorney General. The case is Rowell v. Paxton, 336 F. Supp. 3d 724 (2018). Read the court order issued on August 16, 2018. Read the permanent injunction and final judgment also issued on August 16, 2018.  You can also find a copy of the case's docket entries on CourtListener.com or on PACER.gov.

A 2018 article aimed at landlords from the Houston Apartment Association provides context and background on the litigation.

Violations

The law describes penalties for violations, but it remains unclear if these provisions are enforceable due to a federal lawsuit.

Section 604A.003 says a person who knowingly violates the law is liable for a civil penalty up to $500 per violation. That section goes on further to state that the "attorney general or the prosecuting attorney in the county in which the violation occurs" may bring a suit to recover the civil penalty, but it is important to read the entire statute as it describes other requirements before filing suit.

The Attorney General has a consumer complaint process that you could use to report violations. Please note, though, that the Attorney General's website indicates their office will not file lawsuits on behalf of every individual consumer.

Attorney General Opinions

The Texas Attorney General has issued two opinions that address different aspects of the law in relation to surcharges:

  • Opinion No. KP-0095, a 2016 opinion on online convenience fees and third-party payment processors.
  • Opinion No. KP-0257, a 2019 opinion on whether a county contracting with a private entity for the collection of money owed to the county can charge a fee to defendants.


Can I be required to get a COVID-19 vaccine? Can my employer fire me if I don't get vaccinated?

46577 views   |   61   |   Last updated on Feb 04, 2022    COVID-19 Vaccines

The legal status of various vaccine requirements in the workplace is being decided by the courts and is subject to change quickly. Because of ongoing lawsuits, it is difficult to provide a simple "yes or no" answer to this question. If you do not think your employer's policies are legal, you should seek a legal consultation with an attorney.

Read on for information about Texas laws and federal laws regarding COVID-19 vaccines at the workplace.

Texas Law

Governor Abbott has issued several executive orders related to COVID-19 vaccines. The most recent order — Executive Order GA-40 — was issued on October 11th, 2021. This order expands upon previous orders and prohibits any entity in Texas from requiring any individual to get a COVID-19 vaccine if they have an objection:

No entity in Texas can compel receipt of a COVID-19 vaccine by any individual, including an employee or a consumer, who objects to such vaccination for any reason of personal conscience, based on a religious belief, or for medical reasons, including prior recovery from COVID-19.

The order sets fines for violations to be the maximum amount allowed by Section 418.173 of the Government Code: $1,000. The order does not allow confinement in jail as a penalty.

The order does not specify how to report a violation or who is responsible for enforcement. However, the Texas Workforce Commission issued a letter to Texas employers that states that employees can report violations of GA-40 to TWC over the phone or via e-mail. To report a violation of GA-40 to TWC, e-mail vaccine_job_loss@twc.texas.gov or call (800) 939-6631.

Federal Law

However, at the federal level, executive orders have been issued requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for federal executive branch workersfederal contractors, and service members. In addition, the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services have issued emergency regulations requiring vaccinations for workers in most health care settings that received Medicare or Medicaid reimbursements. These orders have also faced lawsuits against their implementation.

Additionally, the Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued federal regulations for employers with 100 or more employees to ensure their workplace is vaccinated against COVID-19. The OSHA rule required employees at these workplaces to get a COVID-19 vaccine or wear a face covering at work and submit to weekly COVID-19 testing. This rule was recently blocked by a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court. 

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has issued guidance to employers stating they can generally require that their employees provide proof of vaccination if the employees are physically present in the workplace:

The federal EEO laws do not prevent an employer from requiring all employees physically entering the workplace to be vaccinated for COVID-19, subject to the reasonable accommodation provisions of Title VII and the ADA and other EEO considerations discussed below.

The EEOC's guidance also states that, in some circumstances, an employer may be required to provide a reasonable accommodation if an employee cannot receive the COVID-19 vaccine due to a sincerely held religious belief or a disability. An employer may not have to provide a reasonable accommodation if the accommodation would place an “undue hardship” on the employer. Section K.2 has several examples of accommodations for employees.

Legal Status of Vaccine Requirements

Texas has filed lawsuits against various federal agencies over the Biden administration's COVID-19 vaccine requirements for federal contractorshealthcare workersemployers with more than 100 employees, and members of the National Guard. There are also multiple federal lawsuits filed by other parties that may affect the status of these requirements.

The Texas Workforce Commission's COVID-19 Vaccine Policy Issues page highlights Texas and federal laws and ongoing lawsuits:

The vaccination-related orders from the federal government and the Texas governor conflict in many ways, and all such orders are currently in various stages of court appeals. In general, the laws, regulations, and directives dealing with vaccinations are unsettled and subject to change based on public health conditions and other causes that themselves often change rapidly and without warning.

On that page, they recommend that employers discuss their COVID-19 vaccination policies with an employment law attorney:

An employer would be well-advised to seek qualified employment law counsel in the private sector before taking any action that might adversely affect an employee and possibly cause them to file a claim or a lawsuit or otherwise result in an expense to, or compliance problems for, the company.

Employers and employees who have questions about the legal status of COVID-19 vaccine requirements should speak with a lawyer who can provide a legal opinion. See the library's Legal Help page. We also have more information about statutes, orders, and guidance on COVID-19 vaccine mandates on the Vaccine Laws page of the COVID-19 and Texas Law guide.

Related FAQs


Do I need a license to carry a handgun in Texas?

45719 views   |   82   |   Last updated on Jan 13, 2022    Guns Criminal Law


Texas no longer requires people who can legally possess and carry a firearm under both state and federal law to have a License to Carry (LTC) in order to carry a handgun in a public place. This change went into effect on September 1st, 2021, as a result of the passage of House Bill 1927.  


Previously, Texas residents who wished to carry a handgun either openly or concealed needed to obtain a License to Carry (LTC) issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety, the state agency that oversees the handgun licensing program.

However, the Texas Legislature passed House Bill 1927 in the spring of 2021. The bill allows a person who qualifies under the new law to carry a handgun on their person in a public place without an LTC or other required training. Governor Greg Abbott signed HB 1927 into law on June 16th, 2021, and it became effective on September 1st of this year. This act is known as the Firearm Carry Act of 2021 and is sometimes referred to as the "constitutional carry bill."

Who can carry a firearm under the new law?

Laws regarding firearms can be complex. We urge you to speak with an attorney if you aren't sure if you are prohibited from carrying a firearm. As librarians, we cannot help you determine whether you are legally allowed to carry or possess a firearm.

Generally, to carry a handgun in public in Texas without an LTC, a person must:

Did the new law expand gun rights to anyone who was previously prohibited?

This bill does not extend the right to carry a firearm for anyone who was already barred from possessing a firearm under state and federal law, according to Section 2, subsection (3):

persons who are currently prohibited from possessing firearms under state and federal law will not gain the right to possess or carry a firearm under this legislation

The new law did not give anyone the right to carry if they didn't already have that right. People with felony convictions and certain recent misdemeanor convictions remain prohibited from carrying under the new law. People subject to active protective orders also remain prohibited. See the list above for details. If you are not sure whether you can legally carry a firearm in public, you will need to consult with an attorney.

Can I carry a gun anywhere in Texas?

Firearms are always restricted in certain places, like schools, correctional facilities, secured areas of airports, etc. HB 1927 updated the list of places where guns are prohibited for anyone carrying a firearm rather than just license holders. Be sure to review both the new bill and Section 46.03 of the Texas Penal Code for a consolidated list of places where firearms are always prohibited.

Firearms may also be restricted on private businesses or other private property. Texas law allows private property owners to choose whether to allow firearms on their property. If guns are not allowed on the property, this will generally be indicated through signage or some other form of notice. Please see the Businesses and Private Property page of the Gun Laws guide and the  "Where can I carry a gun?" box on the Carry of Firearms page

Does my gun need to be in a holster?

A person in Texas must carry a handgun in a holster. Section 46.02 of the Penal Code requires a handgun to be carried in a holster, but it does not provide a definition of the word "holster." Previously handguns were required to be in a belt or shoulder holster, but HB 1927 removed this requirement. 

Can I still get a License to Carry (LTC)?

HB 1927 did not repeal the LTC program, and Texans who wish to get a license may still apply for one with the Texas Department of Public Safety. Getting an LTC may have other benefits, like allowing the licensee to carry in states that have reciprocity agreements with Texas. It may also act as an alternative to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) check when purchasing a firearm. The Texas DPS lists the benefits of a Texas LTC on its website.


How old do you need to be to buy a gun?

42771 views   |   64   |   Last updated on Jul 10, 2020    Guns Criminal Law

It depends. Texas law and federal law set different age requirements regarding how old you have to be to buy a weapon. Depending on what kind of weapon you would like to purchase and who you are buying it from, the legal age could be as high as 21 under federal law.

The state law about illegal transfers or sales of weapons can be found in the Texas Penal Code, Section 46.06.  Here, “firearm” means “any device designed, made, or adapted to expel a projectile through a barrel by using the energy generated by an explosion or burning substance or any device readily convertible to that use,” not including some antique or curio firearms. This law says that:

Sec. 46.06. UNLAWFUL TRANSFER OF CERTAIN WEAPONS. (a) A person commits an offense if the person:

    […]

    (2) intentionally or knowingly sells, rents, leases, or gives or offers to sell, rent, lease, or give to any child younger than 18 years of age any firearm, club, or location-restricted knife;

However, subsection (c) states that it is an affirmative defense if the child’s parent or legal custodian gives written permission for the sale.

Federal law is slightly more complicated. There are different age requirements depending on whether you are buying from a Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL) or a private individual, and whether you are purchasing a long gun, such as a shotgun or rifle, or a handgun.

The federal law regarding the legal age to purchase from a FFL can be found in 18 U.S. Code 922(b)(1). It states that a licensed dealer cannot sell any firearm or ammunition to someone who they know is or believe to be under the age of 18. For sales of firearms that are not rifles or shotguns and the corresponding ammunition, the dealer cannot sell to someone who they know is or believe to be under the age of 21. Here, "firearm" is defined by 18 U.S. Code 921(a)(3) as "any weapon (including a starter gun) which will or is designed to or may readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive," with the exception of some antique or curio weapons.

However, if the sale is between private individuals, different age limits apply. 18 U.S. Code 922(x) makes it illegal to “sell, deliver, or otherwise transfer” a handgun or handgun ammunition to a juvenile (defined here as a person less than 18 years of age) and for a juvenile to possess a handgun unless all of the following are true:

  • The juvenile is using the handgun for their employment, ranching or farming, target practice, hunting, or taking a firearm education course
  • The juvenile has written permission from a parent or guardian who is not prohibited by law from possessing a firearm
  • The juvenile has the written permission in their possession at any time that they are also in possession of the handgun
  • The juvenile follows other state and federal laws when possessing the handgun

According to the Giffords Center, federal law does not place a minimum age on possessing or receiving rifles or shotguns.

If you are prevented by law from purchasing a firearm due to your age but are wondering if you can receive a gun as a gift, see: Can I gift a firearm to a minor? How old do you need to be to receive a gun as a gift?


For more information about buying guns, please see the Buying & Transferring page of our Gun Laws guide. To ensure that your purchase of a firearm is conducted legally, please consult with an attorney.


Can someone who has been convicted of a felony own a gun?

32059 views   |   111   |   Last updated on Mar 24, 2021    Guns Criminal Law

It is difficult to provide a simple answer to this question because state laws and federal laws conflict with each other. Interpreting and applying these laws to your particular situation requires the assistance of an attorney. Our librarians are not able to provide legal advice nor can we advise you on whether your situation complies with the law.

Federal Law

Federal law prohibits anyone who has been convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term longer than a year from possessing a firearm or ammunition. See 18 U.S. Code 922(g):

(g) It shall be unlawful for any person -
    (1) who has been convicted in any court of, a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year;
    […]
to ship or transport in interstate or foreign commerce, or possess in or affecting commerce, any firearm or ammunition; or to receive any firearm or ammunition which has been shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce.

We often get asked what counts as a "conviction" that would prevent a person from owning a firearm under federal law. According to the definition set in 18 U.S. Code 921(20):

The term "crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year" does not include- [...] (B) any State offense classified by the laws of the State as a misdemeanor and punishable by a term of imprisonment of two years or less.

What constitutes a conviction of such a crime shall be determined in accordance with the law of the jurisdiction in which the proceedings were held. Any conviction which has been expunged, or set aside or for which a person has been pardoned or has had civil rights restored shall not be considered a conviction for purposes of this chapter, unless such pardon, expungement, or restoration of civil rights expressly provides that the person may not ship, transport, possess, or receive firearms.

Texas Law

Section 46.04 of the Texas Penal Code makes it illegal for someone who was convicted of a felony to possess a firearm. However, after five years have passed since the completion of their sentence, parole, or probation, the person is no longer prohibited by state law from possessing a firearm at their home.

Sec. 46.04. UNLAWFUL POSSESSION OF FIREARM. (a) A person who has been convicted of a felony commits an offense if he possesses a firearm:
    (1) after conviction and before the fifth anniversary of the person's release from confinement following conviction of the felony or the person's release from supervision under community supervision, parole, or mandatory supervision, whichever date is later; or
    (2) after the period described by Subdivision (1), at any location other than the premises at which the person lives.

What qualifies as a firearm?

Some antique firearms are exempt from both the state and federal legal definitions of a firearm. See our FAQ "Can someone who has been convicted of a felony own a black powder gun or a muzzleloader?" for more information.

Other Considerations

Other factors might also be relevant for a person with a felony conviction to consider. For example, see: Can I own a gun if my spouse, partner, or someone I live with was convicted of a felony?

For more information, see our Felons & Firearms page for resources that help explain these legal issues. An attorney could advise you and provide a legal opinion specific to your situation.


Do I need to transfer the registration of a firearm from one person to another?

25302 views   |   55   |   Last updated on Sep 25, 2020    Guns

In Texas, there is not a state firearm registry. The federal government also does not maintain a general registry of handgun or rifle ownership. Therefore, when a sale is made between two Texas residents for a firearm not covered by the National Firearms Act (such as such as short-barreled shotguns, machine guns, silencers, etc.), there is no registration to transfer.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives has published this brochure [PDF] with information about the best practices for transfers of firearms between private sellers. It suggests using ATF form P 3312.8, Personal Firearms Record, to record the purchase of a firearm.

If you are selling a firearm to someone who does not live in Texas, the procedure for the transfer will differ. Federal law, in 18 U.S. Code 922(a)(3) and 922(a)(5), allows private individuals to sell guns to one another only if they both live in the same state and if they are not legally prevented from possessing a firearm. Unless a Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL) is involved, Texans can only sell firearms to another Texas resident. If you are selling a firearm to someone who lives in a state with a state firearm registry, you will need to conduct the sale through an FFL who can advise you about how the registration should be handled.


How can I report violations of face mask or face covering orders?

25026 views   |   42   |   Last updated on Nov 18, 2021    Masks COVID-19

GA-38 Replaces Previous Mask Orders

Previous executive orders from the governor that required the use of face coverings/masks are no longer in effect. They were rescinded by the governor's Executive Order GA-38 [PDF], issued July 29, 2021, which states: 

No governmental entity, including a county, city, school district, and public health authority, and no governmental official may require any person to wear a face covering or to mandate that another person wear a face covering;

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton recently announced on Twitter that his office is taking reports of violations of GA-38 by local government entities via e-mail at maskmandate@oag.texas.gov.

Exceptions to GA-38

GA-38 outlines several exceptions where face coverings can still be required: state living centers, government hospitals, TDCJ and TJJD facilities, and county and municipal jails are permitted to “continue to use appropriate policies regarding the wearing of face coverings.”

Violations of GA-38

GA-38 supersedes any local mask requirements, and a governmental entity that imposes a mask requirement is subject to a fine of up to $1,000, but GA-38 does not include details on where or how to report a violation. However, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton recently announced on Twitter that his office has created a point of contact specifically for reports of GA-38 violations by local governments. You can email these reports to maskmandate@oag.texas.gov

Masks at Businesses

You may still see mask requirements at private businesses as they generally have the right to set their own safety and hygiene policies for customers and employees. For more details about mask requirements at private businesses, please see our FAQ Can a business require me to wear a mask? I thought the mask mandate was over.

For more information, please see the Mask Laws page of the COVID-19 & Texas Law research guide


Does my landlord have to provide air conditioning or repair my A/C unit?

24015 views   |   45   |   Last updated on Jul 12, 2022    Landlord/Tenant Law

This is a question we receive frequently as temperatures soar with the summer heat. There is no state law that specifically gives tenants the right to be provided with air conditioning. However, the law or the lease agreement may require the landlord to protect their tenant against extreme temperatures or to repair a faulty A/C unit. Be sure to review:

  • The lease agreement
  • The city's local ordinances
  • The "repair and remedy" state laws that require a landlord to fix a problem that "materially affects the health or safety of an ordinary tenant."

To find out whether your landlord has a legal duty to repair your A/C unit, there are a few steps you could take.

Check Your Lease

Read through your lease to see if air conditioning is mentioned. Your lease agreement may say whether air conditioning is a feature of the rental that the landlord agrees to maintain. Alternatively, the lease may also say that appliance repair is the tenant's responsibility!

If you need help understanding your lease, consider using FreeLegalAnswers.org. You can use this service to upload a copy of your lease so that a volunteer attorney can review it and respond to your questions.

Check Your Local Ordinances

If you live in a city, your city may have local laws that require landlords to protect residential tenants from extreme temperatures. Dallas and Houston both have ordinances that require property owners to provide and maintain air conditioning within a certain temperature. Note that in Houston, this is only required if door and window screens are not provided. Many cities make their ordinances available online

Most cities do not require residential properties to have air conditioning. However, some cities have technical building codes with minimum standards that would apply if the unit does have air conditioning. If you suspect your unit's air conditioning systems are not up to code, consider contacting your local code enforcement department for help.

Request Repairs From Your Landlord

If your unit came with air conditioning and it is no longer working, state law may offer some protections. Section 92.052 of the Texas Property Code requires a landlord to "repair or remedy a condition" that "materially affects the physical health or safety of an ordinary tenant." Section 92.056 outlines the steps a tenant must take to request these repairs.

This statute does not give specific examples of issues that materially affect the health and safety of an ordinary tenant. If you believe that the extreme heat in your rental unit would endanger an ordinary person, this law may allow you to ask your landlord for repairs. 

In order to request repairs under this section:

  • The tenant cannot be behind on rent; and
  • The problem cannot be caused by the tenant, their family, or guests unless it was a result of normal wear and tear.

This law would not require a landlord to provide you with air conditioning if you didn't have it before. However, it might require them to fix a broken unit unless the lease says it is not the landlord's responsibility to do so.

Section 92.056 of the Texas Property Code has very specific procedures for asking the landlord to fix the problem. Make sure you follow these steps before taking other measures like ending your lease or deducting repairs from your rent. Failure to do so may result in the tenant being liable to their landlord. Speaking with an attorney for advice is also recommended.

Austin Tenants' Council has created a page about Repair Rights with instructions for requesting repairs under this law. They also offer a free Self-Help Repair Kit with form letters and instructions that you can use to notify your landlord.

For more information on a tenant's right to repairs, please see the Repairs page of our Landlord/Tenant guide.


Is it true you can shoot your wife's lover if you catch them "in the act?"

22760 views   |   121   |   Last updated on Mar 06, 2020    Texas Trivia

This is commonly referred to as the "paramour law," which referred to article 1220 of the Texas Penal Code. Article 1220 was repealed in 1973 by Senate Bill 34 during the 63rd Regular Session of the Texas Legislature. Prior to its repeal, article 1220 of the Texas Penal Code read as follows:

Homicide is justifiable when committed by the husband upon one taken in the act of adultery with the wife, provided that the killing takes place before the parties to the act have separated. Such circumstance cannot justify a homicide where it appears that there has been, on the part of the husband, any connivance or assent to the adulterous connection.


Can someone who has been convicted of a felony own a black powder gun or a muzzleloader?

21985 views   |   55   |   Last updated on Jul 06, 2020    Guns Criminal Law

In this context, muzzleloaders and black powder guns usually refer to antique or “curio” firearms. These types of weapons are in a special category under Texas and federal law because the legal definitions of “firearm” specifically exclude certain antique firearms.

Texas law makes the following exemption from the definition of “firearm” in Section 46.01(3) of the Texas Penal Code:

Firearm does not include a firearm that may have, as an integral part, a folding knife blade or other characteristics of weapons made illegal by this chapter and that is:
    (A) an antique or curio firearm manufactured before 1899; or
    (B) a replica of an antique or curio firearm manufactured before 1899, but only if the replica does not use rim fire or center fire ammunition.

Federal law defines “antique firearm” in a very similar way at 18 U.S. Code 921(a)(16). Much like Texas law, “antique firearms” are not included in the legal definition of “firearm” (see 18 U.S. Code 921(a)(3)).

These exemptions are important because both Texas law and federal law restrict people who have been convicted of certain offenses from possessing firearms — a legal term that does not include many antique weapons like muzzleloaders.

The Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives has an FAQ regarding whether a “prohibited person” can possess a black powder or muzzle loaded weapon:

The Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA) prohibits felons and certain other persons from possessing or receiving firearms and ammunition (“prohibited persons”). […] However, Federal law does not prohibit these persons from possessing or receiving an antique firearm.

For more information on antique firearms, please see the ATF's definition of “antique firearm”, along with some illustrated examples. The library also has more information on firearm restrictions for convicted felons on the Felons & Firearms page of our Gun Laws research guide


Can a marriage ceremony in Texas be conducted over Zoom or Skype?

20802 views   |   31   |   Last updated on Sep 30, 2021    COVID-19 Family Law Marriage

Texas law does not provide many details about the actual marriage ceremony and how it may be conducted. The law does not explicitly say whether an officiant can conduct a ceremony from a remote location using software like Zoom or Skype. In some counties like Travis and Tarrant, the justices of the peace offer ceremonies using videoconferencing software. There are also news reports from Houston and Austin of wedding ceremonies using Zoom or similar software during the COVID-19 pandemic. Your county's justice of the peace website or county clerk website may offer details about a “Zoom wedding.”

If you still have doubts or questions after reviewing the information on this page, you should seek advice from an attorney.

What Does the Law Say About Marriage Ceremonies?

Texas law does not regulate where the ceremony can or cannot take place. It only requires that the license list the county where the ceremony was performed.

Regarding the ceremony itself, the law says it must take place within 90 days of when the marriage license is issued. There's a 72-hour waiting period between the issuance of the license and the ceremony, with some exceptions. Only certain people are authorized to conduct the ceremony. The law does not address what should be done or said during the ceremony. After the ceremony, the officiant updates the license and returns it to the county clerk within 30 days. The county clerk then records and returns the marriage license.

You can read these laws in Chapter 2, Subchapter C of the Texas Family Code or by visiting the Conducting the Ceremony page of our Marriage in Texas guide.

What If I Can't Attend the Ceremony?

Marriage by proxy is when one person is unable to attend the ceremony and authorizes another adult to fill in for them during the ceremony. Marriage by proxy is not available to everyone. It is limited to certain military members stationed in another country who are unable to attend the ceremony. The law allows that person to designate another adult who can act as a proxy during the ceremony. In these cases, Chapter 2 of the Texas Family Code requires that an affidavit be submitted to the county clerk when applying for the marriage license.

Why Does it Matter If the Officiant Is Somewhere Else?

Marriage laws vary widely across the country. It is possible that legal issues may arise if an officiant is in a different legal jurisdiction than the couple. Some jurisdictions may require the couple and the officiant to appear in person during the ceremony. This article on Skype weddings from American Marriage Ministries provides some examples of jurisdictions in the U.S. that have these types of requirements.

The Texas Justice Court Training Center, which provides training materials for justices of the peace, briefly addresses Zoom wedding ceremonies where all parties are in Texas on their Coronavirus Updates page. As librarians, we cannot advise you on whether your marriage ceremony would be considered legal. An attorney could advise you on the laws you must comply with if you are considering conducting your marriage ceremony across jurisdictional boundaries.

What If We Make a Mistake?

Section 2.301 of the Family Code addresses the validity of marriage if there was a mistake in obtaining a marriage license:

Except as otherwise provided by this chapter, the validity of a marriage is not affected by any fraud, mistake, or illegality that occurred in obtaining the marriage license.

For more information about Texas marriage laws, see the library's Marriage in Texas guide.


Can I be required to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a “vaccine passport?”

20784 views   |   30   |   Last updated on Feb 04, 2022    COVID-19 Vaccines


Summary: With some exceptions, governmental entities and businesses that receive public funding or licenses/permits from the state of Texas are barred from requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination status in order to access goods and services.


What Is a Vaccine Passport?

Section 161.0085 of the Texas Health & Safety Code, which went into effect on June 16th, 2021, prohibits any governmental entity in the state of Texas from issuing standardized documentation that certifies an individual's COVID-19 vaccination status to a third party for a purpose other than health care. This type of documentation is sometimes referred to as a vaccine passport. 

Can a Business Require Proof of Vaccination for Customers?

Both Section 161.0085 of the Texas Health & Safety Code and Governor Abbott's Executive Order GA-39 address this issue. They both say that a business that receives public funds or a license or permit from the state of Texas may not require customers to provide proof of a COVID-19 vaccination.

Section 161.0085 states the following:

(c)  A business in this state may not require a customer to provide any documentation certifying the customer's COVID-19 vaccination or post-transmission recovery on entry to, to gain access to, or to receive service from the business.  A business that fails to comply with this subsection is not eligible to receive a grant or enter into a contract payable with state funds.

(d) Notwithstanding any other law, each appropriate state agency shall ensure that businesses in this state comply with Subsection (c) and may require compliance with that subsection as a condition for a license, permit, or other state authorization necessary for conducting business in this state.

This statute also states that Texas businesses are permitted to follow current public health guidelines regarding COVID-19 screening:

(e) This section may not be construed to: (1) restrict a business from implementing COVID-19 screening and infection control protocols in accordance with state and federal law to protect public health;

GA-39 states the following: 

Any public or private entity that is receiving or will receive public funds through any means, including grants, contracts, loans, or other disbursements of taxpayer money, shall not require a consumer to provide, as a condition of receiving any service or entering any place, documentation regarding the consumer’s vaccination status for any COVID-19 vaccine. No consumer may be denied entry to a facility financed in whole or in part by public funds for failure to provide documentation regarding the consumer’s vaccination status for any COVID-19 vaccine.

Can a Governmental Entity Require Proof of Vaccination?

Governor Abbott issued Executive Order GA-39 on August 25th, 2021. With certain exceptions, GA-39 prohibits Texas state agencies and political subdivisions from requiring proof of a COVID-19 vaccination:

State agencies and political subdivisions shall not adopt or enforce any order, ordinance, policy, regulation, rule, or similar measure that requires an individual to provide, as a condition of receiving any service or entering any place, documentation regarding the individual’s vaccination status for any COVID-19 vaccine.

However, nursing homes, state-supported living centers, assisted living facilities, and long-term care facilities may still “require documentation of a resident's vaccination status for any COVID-19 vaccine.”

Note: Prior to GA-39, the Texas governor also issued executive orders GA-35 and GA-38 addressing COVID-19 vaccines.

Can My Employer Require Proof of Vaccination?

This question is complicated because there are orders and regulations regarding employees at both the state and federal levels. Find details in our other FAQ, Can I be required to get a COVID-19 vaccine? Can my employer fire me if I don't get vaccinated?

For more details on Texas and federal laws on COVID-19 vaccines, please visit the Vaccines page of our COVID-19 & Texas Law guide.

Related FAQs


Do I have to wear a mask if I have a disability?

20040 views   |   40   |   Last updated on Aug 24, 2021    Masks COVID-19

Governor Greg Abbott rescinded previous orders that required the use of face coverings/masks with GA-38 [PDF] on July 29th, 2021. GA-38 prevents government entities from requiring face coverings: 

No governmental entity, including a county, city, school district, and public health authority, and no governmental official may require any person to wear a face covering or to mandate that another person wear a face covering;

Several government entities are exempted from the mask mandate ban: state living centers, government hospitals, TDCJ and TJJD facilities, and county and municipal jails are permitted to "continue to use appropriate policies regarding the wearing of face coverings."

Please see the Mask Laws page of our COVID-19 & Texas Law guide for more information on finding current state and local orders regarding face coverings and masks.

GA-38 does not explicitly prohibit businesses and other establishments from requiring that their customers and employees wear masks:

In providing or obtaining services, every person (including individuals, businesses, and other legal entities) is strongly encouraged to use good-faith efforts and available resources to follow the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) health recommendations, found at www.dshs.texas.gov/coronavirus

Businesses or other establishments can still continue to require masks as a matter of business policy, similar to a "no shirt, no shoes, no service" policy that you may encounter at some businesses. However, a business may be required by law to consider making "reasonable modifications" to face mask policies for those who have a disability that prevents them from wearing a mask. According to the Southeast ADA Center's fact sheet on the ADA and face mask policies:

A reasonable modification means changing policies, practices, and procedures, if needed, to provide goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations to an individual with a disability.

The article includes several examples of "reasonable modifications" to a face mask policy such as allowing the person to wear a mask alternative, allowing curbside pickup, allowing the person to wait in their car instead of a waiting room, etc.

They also state that a business or government agency does not have to accommodate those with a disability:

  • If the accommodation would require a "fundamental alteration" to the business or service.
  • If the accommodation would pose an "undue burden" on the business or service.
  • If the individual with a disability poses a "direct threat" to the health and safety of others. 

According to the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (see FAQ G.2) an employer can require employees to wear protective gear (such as face coverings or gloves). Employees may make a request for a reasonable accommodation under the ADA or a religious accommodation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (such as a modified mask that can be worn with a religious head covering). Employers should provide the modification or an alternative modification unless it would create an "undue hardship" for the employer.

Disability Rights Texas is a nonprofit organization that advocates for the rights of people with disabilities. Their handout COVID-19 and Mask Policies at Work helps answer questions about disability laws and reasonable accommodations regarding masks in the workplace.

If you want to know whether you should avoid wearing a mask due to your disability or medical condition, you should consult with your doctor. People with certain disabilities may be entitled to reasonable accommodations to face mask policies under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other disability laws. It is important to note that disability laws like the ADA only ensure accommodations for those with disabilities. If you have questions about the ADA, you can contact the toll-free ADA Information Line at 800-514-0301 (voice) or 800-514-0383 (TTY).

According to the Center for Disease Control, the following people should not wear a face covering:

  • Children younger than 2 years old.
  • Anyone who has trouble breathing.
  • Anyone who is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the cloth face covering without assistance.

The CDC also recognizes that for some people, wearing a face covering may not be feasible. For others, there may need to be adaptations made to allow them to wear a mask. This could include:

  • Some people who are deaf or hard of hearing (or those who care for or interact with them).
  • Some people with intellectual or developmental disabilities, mental health conditions, or sensory sensitivities.
  • People who work in places where there is a risk of a heat-related illness or where the wearing of a mask causes safety concerns.

The Southeast ADA Center provides additional examples of disabilities that may prevent a person from wearing a mask feasibly or safely. The examples they provide include:

  • People with respiratory illnesses.
  • People with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), severe anxiety, or claustrophobia that is triggered by wearing a mask.
  • Some people with autism.
  • Some people with cerebral palsy or other mobility disorders that might limit the person’s ability to remove their mask without assistance.
  • People who use mouth control devices to operate a wheelchair or other assistive devices.


Can you carry a handgun without a license during a disaster in Texas?

19547 views   |   49   |   Last updated on Sep 07, 2021    Guns COVID-19


Due to House Bill 1927, Texas law no longer requires people who can legally possess a firearm under both state and federal law to have a License to Carry (LTC) in order to carry a handgun. Prior to the passage of permitless carry by HB 1927, Texas Penal Code Section 46.15 included an exception to the requirement of a License to Carry under certain situations during a declared disaster. We outline the provisions of Section 46.15 below.


In 2019 the Texas Legislature passed a law that creates an exception to the requirement for a License to Carry for those in the process of evacuating from a declared state or local disaster area or returning to that area after evacuating. The exception applies for 7 days after the initial disaster declaration is issued (unless the Governor specifically extends that time period). The law does not apply to those who are prohibited by law from possessing a firearm. The law is codified at Section 46.15 of the Texas Penal Code.

Section 46.02 of the Texas Penal Code sets out parameters for when the carrying of a handgun is unlawful. Subsection (k) of Section 46.15  says that Section 46.02 does not apply to a person who carries a handgun if the following 3 conditions are met:

(1) the person carries the handgun while:

(A)  evacuating from an area following the declaration of a state of disaster under Section 418.014, Government Code, or a local state of disaster under Section 418.108, Government Code, with respect to that area; or

(B)  reentering that area following the person's evacuation;

(2)  not more than 168 hours have elapsed since the state of disaster or local state of disaster was declared, or more than 168 hours have elapsed since the time the declaration was made and the governor has extended the period during which a person may carry a handgun under this subsection; and

(3)  the person is not prohibited by state or federal law from possessing a firearm.


Can I gift a firearm to a minor? How old do you need to be to receive a gun as a gift?

18750 views   |   37   |   Last updated on Jul 10, 2020    Guns Criminal Law

The library has received many questions asking whether you can give a gun to someone who is under 18.

The state law about illegal transfers or sales of weapons can be found in the Texas Penal Code, Section 46.06.  Here, “firearm” means “any device designed, made, or adapted to expel a projectile through a barrel by using the energy generated by an explosion or burning substance or any device readily convertible to that use,” not including some antique or curio firearms. This law says that:

Sec. 46.06. UNLAWFUL TRANSFER OF CERTAIN WEAPONS. (a) A person commits an offense if the person:

    […]

    (2) intentionally or knowingly sells, rents, leases, or gives or offers to sell, rent, lease, or give to any child younger than 18 years of age any firearm, club, or location-restricted knife;

However, subsection (c) of that same law states that it is an affirmative defense to prosecution if the child’s parent or legal custodian had given permission or consent for the transfer. If the minor is buying the weapon, this permission must be in writing.

Federal law is similar only when it comes to handguns. 18 U.S. Code 922(x) makes it illegal to “sell, deliver, or otherwise transfer” a handgun or handgun ammunition to a juvenile (defined here as a person less than 18 years of age) and for a juvenile to possess a handgun unless all of the following are true:

  • The juvenile is using the handgun for their employment, ranching or farming, target practice, hunting, or taking a firearm education course
  • The juvenile has written permission from a parent or guardian who is not prohibited by law from possessing a firearm
  • The juvenile has the written permission in their possession at any time that they are also in possession of the handgun
  • The juvenile follows other state and federal laws when possessing the handgun

According to the Giffords Center, federal law does not place a minimum age on possessing or receiving rifles or shotguns.

For more information about selling and gifting guns, please see the Buying & Transferring page of our Gun Laws guide. To ensure that a gift of a weapon to someone younger than 18 is conducted legally, please consult with an attorney.


Is CBD legal in Texas?

17699 views   |   20   |   Last updated on Sep 21, 2021    Criminal Law

Recent changes in both federal and Texas law regarding industrial hemp production have also affected the production and sale of CBD. These laws are currently being implemented in order to create a state industrial hemp program that allows for the legal cultivation of hemp and legal sale of "consumable hemp products" like CBD. The state industrial hemp laws require a license before one can cultivate industrial hemp, and they also require a license to sell consumable hemp products like CBD.

This FAQ will briefly summarize these laws, but for more information, please see the CBD page of our Cannabis and the Law guide.

Cannabidiol is a substance derived from the cannabis plant that does not have the same psychoactive properties as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). This article from the Harvard Health Blog provides more details about what cannabidiol is.

The law defines hemp as cannabis with a THC concentration of less than 0.3% by dry weight. The legal definition is more specific and can be found in Section 121.001 of the Texas Agriculture Code.

At the federal level, H.R.2 Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (often referred to as the 2018 Farm Bill) became law on December 20th, 2018. This federal law defined hemp as cannabis with a THC concentration of less than 0.3% by dry weight and removed it from the federal controlled substances schedules.

In 2019, Texas House Bill 1325 passed during the 86th Regular Session and was signed by the governor on June 10th, 2019. This bill amended the Texas Agriculture Code and the Health & Safety Code in order to regulate the growth of industrial hemp and the sale of consumable hemp products like CBD oil.

Check out the CBD page of our Cannabis and the Law guide for more details and links to other resources related to cannabis.

The Dept. of Agriculture provides information about the license required to grow and cultivate hemp in Texas.

The Dept. of State Health Services provides information about consumable hemp products such as CBD oil and the license required to sell these products.

Prior to the 2019 state laws that legalized consumable hemp products, Texas had enacted the Compassionate-Use Act. This law allows for medical use of low-THC cannabis (less than 1% THC) for certain qualified patients. This law regulates who can produce low-THC cannabis and who may prescribe low-THC cannabis to certain patients.

Patients with a qualifying medical condition listed in Texas Occupations Code 169.003 can participate in the Texas Compassionate-Use program. This law has been amended several times to expand the list of qualifying medical conditions, and Texas law now allows qualified physicians to prescribe low-THC marijuana to patients diagnosed with epilepsy, seizure disorders, multiple sclerosis, spasticity, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, autism, cancer, post-traumatic stress disorder, or an incurable neurodegenerative disease.

The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) regulates dispensaries authorized by the Compassionate-Use Act. DPS has provided answers to frequently asked questions about the Compassionate-Use Program on their website.

For more details, see the Compassionate-Use Program page of our Cannabis and the Law guide.

Outside the provisions set out in the Texas Compassionate-Use Act, our librarians have not been able to locate any Texas statutes that address the use of medical marijuana.

Recreational use of marijuana is still illegal under Texas and federal law. Federal penalties for possession of a controlled substance are found in United States Code, Title 21, Section 844.

The Texas Controlled Substances Act (Health and Safety Code, Ch. 481) defines marijuana (spelled "marihuana") and sets criminal penalties for possession, delivery, and delivery to a child.

Marijuana is listed as a Schedule I drug in the federal Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S. Code, Sec. 812).


back to top

browse by topic