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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?

55092 views   |   133   |   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 I carry a weapon while wearing a mask? 

41357 views   |   119   |   Last updated on Jul 24, 2020    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 laws 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 Texas previously had anti-mask laws, but these were repealed in 1974 and are not currently in effect.

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

13386 views   |   41   |   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.


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

8047 views   |   22   |   Last updated on Jun 25, 2020    Guns COVID-19

Generally speaking, if you want to carry a handgun in Texas you must have a license to carry a handgun regardless of whether your handgun is carried openly or concealed. See the Carry of Firearms and License to Carry pages of our Gun Laws research guide for more detailed information.

In 2019 the Texas Legislature passed a law that creates an exception to this rule for those who are in the process of evacuating from a declared state or local disaster area or those who are 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 gift cards expire? Can merchants charge an annual fee on a gift card?

7353 views   |   51   |   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.


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

6909 views   |   7   |   Last updated on Sep 14, 2020    Masks COVID-19

This question can be confusing because there are overlapping orders regarding face masks or cloth coverings: the governor's executive order (GA-29) that is in effect statewide for individuals as well as orders from local governments like counties and municipalities that affect how businesses may operate. Each local order is different and has its own language about enforcement procedures, but most will generally point you to local law enforcement officials for enforcement. The governor's executive order does the same.

Local law enforcement would include a county sheriff's office, a city police department, a county fire marshal, or possibly a county public health department. Visit our COVID-19 & Texas Law research guide for information on how to locate any local orders in effect where you live or work.

Unless it is an emergency, use a non-emergency line to contact local law enforcement. These numbers are often posted online. If you have trouble finding a number to call, you can Ask a Librarian for help.

In many urban or populous areas, you can often dial 3-1-1 on your phone to be connected with a non-emergency line for your local law enforcement.

Businesses that sell alcohol are regulated by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC). If the business violating the order is an establishment licensed by the TABC, the governor's executive orders allow TABC to suspend licenses. You can report violations by calling (888) 843-8222 or by e-mailing complaints@tabc.texas.gov. There are also many TABC regional offices across the state that you could contact.


Is cannabidiol oil (CBD oil) legal in Texas?

6758 views   |   7   |   Last updated on May 23, 2020    Criminal Law

Recent changes in both federal and Texas law regarding industrial hemp production have also affected the production and sale of CBD oil. 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 oil. 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 oil. 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.

Then 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 0.5% THC) for certain qualified patients. This law regulates who can produce low-THC cannabis and who may prescribe low-THC cannabis to certain patients.

House Bill 3703 from 2019 recently expanded the law to include more qualifying patients. This bill was signed by the governor on June 14, 2019, and became effective immediately. The new legislation now allows qualified physicians to prescribe low-THC marijuana to patients diagnosed with epilepsy, seizure disorders, multiple sclerosis, spasticity, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, austism, terminal cancer, 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).


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?

6123 views   |   51   |   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?

6036 views   |   51   |   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.


Does Texas have an anti-mask law?

5926 views   |   7   |   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 a marriage ceremony in Texas be conducted over video conferencing software like Zoom or Skype?

5435 views   |   12   |   Last updated on Sep 15, 2020    Marriage COVID-19 Family Law

We have been unable to locate any Texas laws that regulate where or how a marriage ceremony must be conducted. Texas state law regulates certain aspects of marriage ceremonies in Chapter 2, Subchapters C through D of the Texas Family Code.

Section 2.202 sets out the requirements for who may conduct a marriage ceremony in Texas.

Section 2.203 requires the person conducting the ceremony to receive an unexpired marriage license from the couple. After the ceremony, Section 2.206 states that the officiant "shall record on the license the date on which and the county in which the ceremony [was] performed and the person's name," then they must "subscribe the license, and return the license to the county clerk who issued it not later than the 30th day after the date the ceremony [was] conducted."

Marriage laws vary widely across the country. Some jurisdictions may require the couple, the officiant, or all parties to appear in person during the ceremony. This article on Skype weddings from the American Marriage Ministries provides some examples of jurisdictions in the U.S. that have these types of requirements. An attorney could advise you on the laws you must comply with if you are considering conducting your marriage ceremony across jurisdictional boundaries.

According to Section 2.203 of the Texas Family Code, a person may appear at a marriage ceremony by proxy only if they are "(1) a member of the armed forces of the United States stationed in another country in support of combat or another military operation; and (2) unable to attend the ceremony".

Texas Family Code Section 2.002 states that generally, both applicants for a marriage license must "appear before the county clerk". However, Section 2.006 provides an exception for applicants who are 18 years of age or older and are unable to appear personally. In that case, "any adult person or the other applicant may apply on behalf of the absent applicant." The person appearing on the applicant's behalf must provide the clerk with a "notarized affidavit of the absent applicant as provided by this subchapter" as well as "proof of the identity and age of the absent applicant under Section 2.005(b)". Requirements for the notarized affidavit can be found in Section 2.007.

Section 2.006(c) also notes the following:

[…] the clerk may not issue a marriage license for which both applicants are absent unless the person applying on behalf of each absent applicant provides to the clerk an affidavit of the applicant declaring that the applicant is a member of the armed forces of the United States stationed in another country in support of combat or another military operation.

Texas Family Code Section 2.301 discusses the validity of marriage:

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.

Please see the library's research guide to Marriage in Texas for more information on Texas marriage laws.


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

5326 views   |   9   |   Last updated on Sep 09, 2020    Masks COVID-19

Effective July 3rd, Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued a statewide mandate that individuals wear a face covering while in most public places. However, Executive Order GA-29 [PDF] makes a number of exemptions, including:

this face-covering requirement does not apply to the following: [...]

2) any person with a medical condition or disability that prevents wearing a face covering

Your city or county may have also issued an order regarding face masks. Typically, these local orders will also include an exemption for those with relevant disabilities. You should check your local orders for details.

Please see the Mask Laws page of our COVID-19 & Texas Law research guide for more information on GA-29 and other mask requirement laws.

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.

Businesses and government agencies must consider making “reasonable modifications” to face mask policies for those who have a disability. 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 Great Plains ADA Center, businesses may ask customers whether the reason the customer is not able to comply with a mask policy is because of a disability. However, they caution businesses "not to ask questions about the nature or severity of the disability."

The Southeast ADA Center makes this note about businesses asking customers to provide documentation of their disability:

At this time, the U.S. Department of Justice or other federal agencies with enforcement authority have not provided specific guidance about whether a store can or cannot ask for medical documentation about a person’s inability to wear a mask due to a disability. Generally, guidance from the U.S. Department of Justice has not allowed asking for documentation for accommodations at businesses where interactions are brief, such as grocery stores or pharmacies. Some places such as medical offices or hospitals may need the medical documentation because a person who is not wearing a mask may infect other people who are sick.

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.


I just bought a used car and decided I don't want it. Do I have a legal right to return it? Isn't there a 3-day right to cancel the purchase?

5156 views   |   54   |   Last updated on Oct 02, 2018    Consumer Protection Motor Vehicles

Many people believe they have a 3-day right to cancel the purchase of a motor vehicle, but that is not the norm. The library has not located a state law that explicitly grants a 3-day right to cancel any used vehicle purchase. The Texas Attorney General website addresses a very specific 3-day “right of rescission” for door-to-door sales, and they state the following:

Certain types of sales will not be covered by these laws, including auto sales.

One exception is for motor vehicle retail installment sales. A retail installment contract is a “transaction between you and the dealer to purchase a vehicle where you agree to pay the dealer over time, paying both the value of the vehicle plus interest,” according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. That is, a retail installment contract does not apply to transactions that involve a loan. Section 348.111 of the Finance Code states that a buyer may rescind the contract under certain conditions, quoted below:

Sec. 348.110. DELIVERY OF COPY OF CONTRACT. A retail seller shall:
(1) deliver to the retail buyer a copy of the retail installment contract as accepted by the retail seller; or
(2) mail to the retail buyer at the address shown on the retail installment contract a copy of the retail installment contract as accepted by the retail seller.

Sec. 348.111. BUYER'S RIGHT TO RESCIND CONTRACT. Until the retail seller complies with Section 348.110, a retail buyer who has not received delivery of the motor vehicle is entitled to:
(1) rescind the contract;
(2) receive a refund of all payments made under or in contemplation of the contract; and
(3) receive the return of all goods traded in to the retail seller under or in contemplation of the contract or, if those goods cannot be returned, to receive the value of those goods.

You may also want to review the terms of the contract or agreement that you signed as it may contain cancellation provisions, a return policy, or a “cooling-off period.” Generally speaking, once you sign a contract, you are bound by the terms it contains. There may be exceptions (e.g., a contract was signed under duress, there was deception or fraudulent activity), but only an attorney can provide a legal opinion and inform you of your options.

It may also be possible to negotiate with the seller and come to a mutual agreement.


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

4790 views   |   51   |   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.


I bought a used car, but it does not run well. I think the seller lied to me. What can I do?

4314 views   |   54   |   Last updated on Oct 02, 2018    Consumer Protection Motor Vehicles

The Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA) is Texas's leading consumer protection legislation. It protects consumers by making it unlawful to misrepresent a product that is sold in the state. Richard Alderman, a Texas attorney who helped draft the DTPA, discusses one's options when a seller has lied about major defects and he also discusses one's options when a seller claims he did not know about a defect. He states the following:

Under the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, it is unlawful for a seller to fail to disclose known defects, in order to induce you to make a purchase. In other words, if a seller knows of a major defect he must disclose it. I should point out that this law applies to all sellers, including individuals not in business. Under this law, a seller who knowingly fails to disclose facts, or takes steps to conceal them, may be liable for up to three times your damages plus court costs and attorneys' fees. To use the Deceptive Trade Practices Act you must first give the seller written notice of your complaint and the amount of your damages.

For more information about the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, we recommend this video by Richard Alderman from a People's Law School session that explains the DTPA and how it can be used to assert your rights.


What is the statute of limitations on debt?

3898 views   |   42   |   Last updated on Aug 13, 2019    Debt Collection Consumer Protection

A statute of limitations refers to how long a party has to bring suit in court. Chapter 16 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code sets out limitation periods for various civil causes of action, and section 16.004 of the Code sets out a 4-year limitation period for suits related to debt. According to the statute, a lawsuit must be brought “not later than four years after the day the cause of action accrues.” The Texas Attorney General provides several articles relating to debt collection and relief that may answer some of your questions.

A new state law effective September 1st, 2019 — House Bill 996 — prohibits a debt buyer from taking certain actions once the statute of limitations has expired. It also includes protections against “reviving” or re-aging the statute of limitations. According to the bill analysis [PDF], this new law would prohibit debt buyers “from directly or indirectly commencing an action against or initiating arbitration with a consumer for the purpose of collecting a consumer debt after the limitation period” has expired. The analysis also explains that a “collection action on consumer debt that was past the statute of limitations could not be revived by any activity on the consumer debt, including payment.” The law also requires written notices to the consumer in certain communications.

In addition to Texas law, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act is federal law enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC website provides answers to frequently asked questions about debt collection. The FTC website addresses some aspects of collecting on an old debt with the following information:

What if my debt is old?

Debt collectors have a certain number of years they can sue you and win to collect a debt. It’s called the statute of limitations, and usually begins when you fail to make a payment on a debt. Once it’s over, your unpaid debt is considered “time-barred,” but in some states, you have to raise the age of the debt as a defense to win.

How long the statute of limitations on a debt lasts depends on what kind of debt it is, and the law in your state or the state specified in your credit contract.

Also, under the laws of some states, if you make a payment or provide written acknowledgment of your debt, the clock may start ticking again.

Can a debt collector contact me about a time-barred debt?

Yes. Even if a debt collector can’t successfully sue you over a time-barred debt, you may still owe it.

What if I’m not sure whether my debt is time-barred?

Ask the collector when its records show you made your last payment. You also can send the collector a letter within 30 days of receiving a written notice of the debt. Explain why you’re disputing the debt and that you want to verify it. A collector must stop trying to collect until it gives you verification.

If you are unsure of when the 4-year limitations period begins and ends, it would be best to consult with an attorney who could help calculate when your cause of action accrued. For more information about debt collection, the library has put together a research guide with links to more information about debt collection laws.


Does Texas recognize common law marriages? How do common law marriages work in Texas?

3698 views   |   51   |   Last updated on Sep 15, 2020    Marriage COVID-19 Family Law

Yes, Texas law does recognize common law marriages, which are referred to as “marriages without formalities” or “informal marriages.” See chapter 2, subchapter E of the Texas Family Code for the state laws on common law marriages.

A common misconception is that partners may accidentally enter into a common law marriage simply by living together for a certain amount of time. But chapter 2, subchapter E of the Texas Family Code sets out the requirements that must be met in order to prove a common law marriage.

TexasLawHelp.org hosts an article on common law marriages authored by Texas RioGrande Legal Aid. To prove a common law marriage, they state all of the following must be shown:

You must show that you and your partner:

  • are not already married, informally or formally, to anyone else at the time the marriage was created, and
  • both you and your partner were at least 18 years of age when the marriage was created; and
  • you agreed to be married, and
  • afterward, lived in Texas as a married couple, and
  • represented to others that you are married (“holding out” to others).

It is also possible to register a common law marriage by signing a declaration of informal marriage. This form is provided by the county clerk.

Review our common law marriage research guide if you would like to locate more information about common law marriage.


Can I carry a gun in my car? 

3656 views   |   10   |   Last updated on Sep 25, 2020    Guns Criminal Law

Handguns

Generally speaking, Texas law allows people to transport a handgun in their vehicle 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.

Additionally, section (a-1) states that only those with a Texas License to Carry (LTC) are permitted to keep a handgun in “plain view” within the vehicle. Those with an LTC must keep their handgun in a shoulder or belt holster if their handgun is in plain view.

(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 licensed to carry a handgun under Subchapter H, Chapter 411, Government Code, and the handgun is carried in a shoulder or belt holster; or
    [...]

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

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


Do I have 3 days to return a purchase or cancel a contract in Texas?

3639 views   |   58   |   Last updated on Oct 02, 2018    Consumer Protection

The library receives this question often, but we have not been able to locate a law that provides a 3-day right to cancel any and all contracts or return any and all purchases. There are some statutes that provide a “cooling off” period for certain purchases or transactions, but these laws are very specific in nature and don't apply to all transactions.

Our cancellation of consumer contracts research guide points you to laws that deal with specific purchases or contracts — e.g., timeshares, health spas, home equity loans, motor vehicle installment sales, certain telephone solicitation purchases, manufactured home purchases, “lease to own” house contracts.

In his Know Your Rights! publication, Richard Alderman, a Texas attorney, says the following:

The existence of a three-day cooling-off period is one of the most widely held misconceptions about the law. There are only very limited instances in which you have three days to change your mind. For example, you have this right if you sign a contract that puts a lien on your home, a contract for time-share property, a health spa contract, or most contracts negotiated door-to-door. In other cases, though, once you sign you are bound.

The Texas Attorney General's website addresses the 3-day right to cancel law regarding door-to-door sales, but as they explain, that law is very specific.

If you still have questions about a purchase or contract, it would be best to consult with an attorney for advice specific to your situation.


I just bought a new car, but I have now changed my mind and no longer want it. How long do I have to return it? 3 days?

3597 views   |   49   |   Last updated on Oct 02, 2018    Consumer Protection Motor Vehicles

Many people believe they have a 3-day right to cancel the purchase of a new motor vehicle, but that is not the norm. Richard Alderman, a Texas attorney who helped draft the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, addresses this issue on his website. In response to whether a person can return a new motorcycle, he states:

As a general rule, when you sign a contract to buy something you are bound by the terms of that contract. There is no time limit within which you may just “change your mind.” In most cases, to get out of a contract, you must show that you were induced into the contract by fraud, duress, deceit or misrepresentation. There are a few exceptions to this rule.

One exception is for motor vehicle retail installment sales. A retail installment contract is a “transaction between you and the dealer to purchase a vehicle where you agree to pay the dealer over time, paying both the value of the vehicle plus interest,” according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. That is, a retail installment contract does not apply to transactions that involve a loan. Section 348.111 of the Finance Code states that a buyer may rescind the contract under certain conditions, quoted below:

Sec. 348.110. DELIVERY OF COPY OF CONTRACT. A retail seller shall:
(1) deliver to the retail buyer a copy of the retail installment contract as accepted by the retail seller; or
(2) mail to the retail buyer at the address shown on the retail installment contract a copy of the retail installment contract as accepted by the retail seller.

Sec. 348.111. BUYER'S RIGHT TO RESCIND CONTRACT. Until the retail seller complies with Section 348.110, a retail buyer who has not received delivery of the motor vehicle is entitled to:
(1) rescind the contract;
(2) receive a refund of all payments made under or in contemplation of the contract; and
(3) receive the return of all goods traded in to the retail seller under or in contemplation of the contract or, if those goods cannot be returned, to receive the value of those goods.

You may also want to review the terms of the contract or agreement that you signed as it may contain cancellation provisions, a return policy, or a “cooling-off period.” Generally speaking, once you sign a contract, you are bound by the terms it contains. There may be exceptions (e.g., a contract was signed under duress, there was deception or fraudulent activity), but only an attorney can provide a legal opinion and inform you of your options.

It may also be possible to negotiate with the seller and come to a mutual agreement.


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