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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?

58037 views   |   138   |   Last updated on Nov 20, 2019    Criminal Law Minors Family 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? 

50722 views   |   144   |   Last updated on Mar 24, 2021    Guns Masks COVID-19

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

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 Texas previously had anti-mask laws, but these were repealed in 1974 and are not currently in effect.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due to COVID-19 [PDF] that required people to wear a face covering in most public places (this executive order has been rescinded as of March 10th, 2021, so please check for any local orders regarding face masks or coverings that may be in place in your area).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

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

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

Can I carry a gun in my car? 

32669 views   |   107   |   Last updated on May 25, 2021    Criminal Law Guns


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

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

30626 views   |   76   |   Last updated on Apr 23, 2021    Guns

Federal law only 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 [PDF] 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 [PDF] for more detailed information about when you need a Federal Firearms License (FFL) to conduct firearm sales.

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. Or, you could conduct the sale with the help of an FFL dealer who would 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:

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.

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 [PDF] for best practices to follow when selling a firearm.

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.

Yes. As this handbook [PDF] 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 [PDF] for more detailed information.

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

21159 views   |   48   |   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 or on

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?

17576 views   |   28   |   Last updated on May 26, 2021    Masks COVID-19

In earlier stages of the pandemic, violations of mask or face covering orders could be reported to local law enforcement. As a result of Executive Orders EO-GA-34 [PDF] and EO-GA-36 [PDF], state and local mask orders are no longer enforceable.

Businesses or other establishments can 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 (GA-36 [PDF] rescinded parts of GA-34 [PDF], but leaves the section that permits businesses the freedom to establish their own policies regarding masks in place). If a person refuses to leave a business for failing to comply with the businesses' mask policy, law enforcement can act at the business or property owners' request to remove the person for violating trespassing laws. 

For more information on GA-36 [PDF] and GA-34 [PDF], please see the Mask Laws page of the COVID-19 & Texas Law research guide


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

13152 views   |   38   |   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.

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

13056 views   |   29   |   Last updated on May 26, 2021    Masks COVID-19

Private businesses still have the right to require masks if they choose, but state and local government entities can no longer do so. 

The statewide mask mandate put in place by the governor's previous Executive Order GA-29 [PDF] has been rescinded by Executive Order GA-34 [PDF], and local government entities are prohibited from requiring a person to wear a mask or face covering, according to the governor's Executive Order GA-36 [PDF]. However, these governor's orders still allow businesses and other establishments to require masks for customers and employees.

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.

Governor Abbott's Executive Order GA-34 does not prohibit businesses and other establishments from requiring that their customers and employees wear masks. 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 (GA-36 [PDF] rescinded parts of GA-34 [PDF], but leaves the section that permits businesses the freedom to establish their own policies regarding masks in place). If a person refuses to leave a business for failing to comply with the businesses' mask policy, law enforcement can act at the business or property owners' request to remove the person for violating trespassing laws.

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 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.

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

11259 views   |   53   |   Last updated on Mar 24, 2021    Criminal Law Guns

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.

Can a marriage ceremony in Texas be conducted over video conferencing software like Zoom or Skype?

11126 views   |   22   |   Last updated on Dec 07, 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."

Inter-Jurisdictional Marriage Ceremonies

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.

Marriage by Proxy

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".

Absent Applicant for Marriage License

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.

Validity of a Marriage

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.

Can gift cards expire? Can merchants charge an annual fee on a gift card?

9112 views   |   54   |   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?

8244 views   |   9   |   Last updated on Jan 20, 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 the 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.

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.

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 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 the 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, autism, 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).

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

7884 views   |   61   |   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.

Does Texas have an anti-mask law?

7555 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

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?

6743 views   |   52   |   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?

6628 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.

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

5705 views   |   6   |   Last updated on Jul 10, 2020    Criminal Law Guns

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?

5518 views   |   18   |   Last updated on Jul 06, 2020    Criminal Law Guns

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

5504 views   |   13   |   Last updated on Sep 25, 2020    Criminal Law Guns

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 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?

5501 views   |   57   |   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.

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