my account

Frequently Asked Legal Questions

Find answers to common questions in our searchable FAQ.

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

59288 views   |   140   |   Last updated on Nov 20, 2019    Family Law Minors 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.


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

58750 views   |   174   |   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 weapon while wearing a mask? 

54349 views   |   153   |   Last updated on Sep 22, 2021    Guns COVID-19 Masks

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.


Can I carry a gun in my car? 

43922 views   |   128   |   Last updated on Sep 08, 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. 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 people to transport a handgun in their vehicle or in a vehicle "under the person's control" as long as they are otherwise allowed to possess a firearm. Texas Penal Code Section 46.02 creates an offense for the unlawful carrying of handguns and in subsection (a)(2)(b), makes an exception to unlawful carry 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.

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. After September 1st, 2021, Texans who do not have an LTC but are otherwise eligible to possess a firearm can keep a handgun in "plain view" in their vehicle, provided that it is kept 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 a business charge a fee for using a credit card or a debit card instead of cash?

28529 views   |   54   |   Last updated on Mar 10, 2020    Consumer Protection

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.
[…]

See the definition of “surcharge” at Section 604A.001(5) for language related to discounts for cash purchases.

On August 16, 2018, Judge Lee Yeakel of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas issued an order that permanently enjoined the State of Texas from enforcing the law prohibiting credit card surcharges (Sec. 604A.0021) against certain merchants that had sued the Attorney General. In his final judgment, Judge Yeakel wrote:

IT IS ORDERED that Defendant Ken Paxton, Attorney General of Texas as well as his employees, agents, and successors in office, are hereby ENJOINED from enforcing Texas Business and Commerce Code section 604A.0021 against [the plaintiffs].

Read the court order issued on August 16, 2018 [PDF]. Read the permanent injunction and final judgment also issued on August 16, 2018 [PDF]. The case is Rowell v. Paxton, number 1:14-cv-00190, and you can find a copy of the case's docket entries on CourtListener.com or on PACER.gov.

This November 2018 article by Dave Lieber with Dallas News provides some context and background on the litigation.

In June of 2019, the Texas Attorney General issued an opinion in response to a county auditor's request — Opinion No. KP-0257 [PDF]. In this opinion, the Attorney General describes the 2018 litigation and mentions that there are still situations where the law could be enforceable:

When a court determines that a statute is unconstitutional as applied, it normally invalidates the statute only as applied to the litigant in question and does not render the statute unenforceable with regard to other litigants or different factual circumstances. [...] Thus, circumstances may still exist where, as applied, section 604A.0021 operates to prohibit a credit card surcharge fee.

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.

We often receive questions asking who qualifies as a merchant or a seller and who qualifies as a buyer. Because the library is not able to interpret the law, we can only point you to Section 604A.001 since it defines some of the terms used in Chapter 604A. The library cannot determine if the law is being violated in a specific situation.

In June of 2016, the Texas Attorney General issued an opinion that discusses the law in relation to convenience fees and third-party payment processors [PDF] (KP-0095). In June of 2019, the Attorney General issued an opinion discussing the law in relation to a county contracting with a private entity for the collection of money owed to the county [PDF] (KP-0257). As the Attorney General website states, an Attorney General opinion is a “written interpretation of existing law,” but Attorney General opinions “cannot resolve factual disputes.”

Section 604A.003 describes the penalty for violations:

A person who knowingly violates Section 604A.002 or 604A.0021 is liable to the state for a civil penalty in an amount not to exceed $500 for each 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's website has information about the use of credit cards, and they ask that you file a consumer complaint with their office if you feel that a business is charging extra for credit card purchases.

Note: Senate Bill 560, which went into effect on September 1st, 2017, changed the laws relating to credit card surcharges. Previously, the Office of Consumer Credit Commissioner (OCCC) enforced the law on credit card surcharges, but that is no longer the case.


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

21693 views   |   36   |   Last updated on Aug 20, 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. There is a list of government entities who have been reported for not complying with GA-38 available on the Attorney General's website.

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


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

17441 views   |   75   |   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 have to wear a mask if I have a disability?

16303 views   |   33   |   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?

15073 views   |   44   |   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 a marriage ceremony in Texas be conducted over Zoom or Skype?

13970 views   |   22   |   Last updated on Sep 30, 2021    Family Law Marriage COVID-19

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.


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

10774 views   |   68   |   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 gift cards expire? Can merchants charge an annual fee on a gift card?

10043 views   |   57   |   Last updated on Mar 13, 2020    Consumer Protection

Chapter 604 of the Texas Business & Commerce Code regulates the sale of "stored value cards," a term defined to include a "gift card or gift certificate" which can be either “inscribed on a tangible medium” or “stored in an electronic or other medium and is retrievable in perceivable form.”  Review Chapter 604, Subchapter B for information on permissible fees. Subchapter C contains information about required disclosures, such as expiration dates and policies. Texas law does not contain any restrictions about how far in advance an expiration date can be – only that it be “clearly and conspicuously disclosed.”

In addition to state law, the 2009 federal Credit CARD Act [PDF] also regulates gift cards and their expiration policies. Its definitions of “gift certificate” and “store gift card” are limited to an “electronic promise” – see 15 U.S. Code § 1693l–1(a)(2)(B) and 1693l-1(a)(2)(C). Unlike Texas law, federal law does contain restrictions on expiration dates. 15 USC 1693l-1(c) states that “[A] gift certificate, store gift card, or general-use prepaid card may contain an expiration date if … the expiration date is not earlier than 5 years after the date on which the gift certificate was issued, or the date on which card funds were last loaded to a store gift card or general-use prepaid card.”

To read the portion of the federal law that relates to gift cards, see section 1693l-1 of Title 15 of the U.S. Code or read this publication from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that explains the new federal laws: Gift Cards.


Is CBD legal in Texas?

9905 views   |   9   |   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).


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

9697 views   |   8   |   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 black powder gun or a muzzleloader?

9555 views   |   29   |   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 I be required to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a “vaccine passport?”

9151 views   |   13   |   Last updated on Oct 12, 2021    Vaccines COVID-19


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?

Senate Bill 968, 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. Read a summary of Senate Bill 968.

Can a Business Require Proof of Vaccination for Customers?

Both Senate Bill 968 and Governor Abbott's Executive Order GA-39 from August 25, 2021, 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.

Senate Bill 968 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.

Senate Bill 968 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 my employer require me to get a COVID-19 vaccine? Can I be fired if I don't get vaccinated?


Does Texas have an anti-mask law?

8350 views   |   10   |   Last updated on Jul 24, 2020    Masks COVID-19

The library has received questions about whether or not there are any Texas statutes that address the wearing of masks in public. We have been unable to locate any current Texas statutes that discuss the wearing of masks or disguises in public. However, there was an anti-mask law in Texas that was passed in 1925 and repealed in 1974. At the time, the law was codified as Article 454a-g of the Texas Penal Code.

Governor Miriam "Ma" Ferguson signed the anti-mask bill into law during her first term in office in response to a rise in activity from the Ku Klux Klan, whose members are known for wearing masks and hoods. The KKK was experiencing a resurgence in membership in the 1920s with tens of thousands of members in Texas who spread terror across the state and wielded great political influence. Several other states also enacted anti-mask laws in response to the KKK.

Some portions of Texas's anti-mask law were challenged in the courts and at least one article was ruled to be in violation of the Texas Constitution. In 1929, a court case challenged Article 454c, which prohibited demanding entrance to a house or disturbing the inhabitants of a house while wearing a mask or disguise. As a result of this case, Art. 454c "was held in violation of Const. art. 1 sec. 10 as failing to definitely and clearly describe [the] offense." Despite this and other legal challenges, portions of the law were still used to prosecute Texans for many years to come. The anti-mask law was repealed in 1974 during the re-codification of the Texas Penal Code.

For more information on face coverings and COVID-19, please see the Mask Laws page of our COVID-19 & Texas Law research guide


Can I own a gun if my spouse, partner, or someone I live with was convicted of a felony?

8298 views   |   20   |   Last updated on Sep 25, 2020    Guns Criminal Law

For advice on whether you can legally possess a firearm while living with someone who has been convicted of a felony, it is best to consult with an attorney who can evaluate your specific situation and provide you with advice on how to comply with the law.

See our FAQ "Can someone who has been convicted of a felony own a gun?" and the Felons & Firearms page of our Gun Laws research guide for information about the laws that prohibit firearm possession after a felony conviction. Unfortunately, Texas and Federal statutes do not provide a clear definition of exactly what “possession” means. For this reason, if a person is charged with unlawfully possessing a firearm, the court will likely need to consider many different factors to determine if the person was truly in "possession" of the firearm.

One legal concept that may come into play is the concept of “constructive possession." This concept means that even if a person was not in direct control of something, if they knew it was there and had the ability to control it, it may qualify as legal possession of the object. For example, if your spouse knows that you keep your firearm in a safe and they know the combination to that safe, a court may find that your spouse legally has possession of that firearm. This article from a law firm explains the concept in more detail.

Many factors may come into play when answering this question, and constructive possession is just one example. For advice on whether you can legally possess a firearm while living with someone who has been convicted of a felony, please consult with an attorney.


I purchased an item that I no longer want. Do I have a legal right to return it to the store? What does the law say about refunds and return policies?

7108 views   |   53   |   Last updated on Apr 28, 2015    Consumer Protection

We receive this question often, but we are unaware of any state law requiring any and all merchants to accept returns nor have we found any state law that would require merchants to post their return policy. Unfortunately, there is no clear answer to questions related to refunds and returns because it will depend on the specifics of your situation. Richard Alderman, a Texas attorney who helped draft consumer protection legislation in Texas, discusses refunds on his website and states the following:

Your right to a refund must be based on your "contract" with the store. Most people don't think about it, but every time you buy something at a store you enter into a contract. [...] The terms of that agreement control your rights. Some of the terms of the contract are expressly stated, for example the price. Other terms arise by implication, for example, some warranty rights as well as the right to return or exchange the item.

If you have questions about a specific purchase, it would be best to speak to an attorney who could inform you of your legal options. While there are laws that allow for a 3-day right to cancel certain purchases, these laws are very specific and do not apply in a majority of consumer purchases. The Texas Attorney General provides this information on the 3-day right to cancel in Texas.


Are auto-renewing contracts or "evergreen clauses" legal in Texas?

6934 views   |   53   |   Last updated on Apr 28, 2015    Consumer Protection

We have been unable to locate any state laws that regulate auto-renewing contracts in general. House Bill 1702 from the 80th Regular Session of the Texas Legislature sought to restrict the automatic renewal of contracts, but this bill did not become law. If you have questions about a specific contract, please consult with an attorney for a legal opinion.


back to top

browse by topic