Here's what a legal expert had to say about the $250 mask order fine

Nick Natario Image
Wednesday, August 5, 2020
Legal expert explains what happens if you receive mask ticket
Watch the video above to see your options if you ever receive a ticket for not wearing a mask in Houston.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- By now, everyone in the city of Houston should have heard of the new mask violation tickets.

Legal experts said if you're out in public, you may want to wear a mask.

Health experts said masks not only slow down the spread of COVID-19, but now in Houston, violators can receive a $250 ticket.

SEE MORE: HPD to issue $250 fines for mask order violations as mayor gets aggressive with virus

"I think most people don't have $250 to pay off a fine," viewer Jack Smestad said.

So far, the Houston Police Department said no one has been issued a ticket.

But when a ticket is issued, ABC13 asked legal expert Steve Shellist if the ticket could be challenged in court.

"I've got to tell you, based on my understanding of the law, I don't think they would have much of a leg to stand on," Shellist explained.

There are exemptions, including children under the age of 10, if you're able to social distance and if you're eating.

The Houston police union said no one will be arrested, and at first, you will receive a warning.

RELATED: No one will be arrested for not wearing a mask, Houston police union says

Although there's a tip line, legal experts said you shouldn't be worried about your neighbor.

"The officer is going to have to witness it," Shellist explained. "They're not just going to rely on somebody calling in a couple hours ago saying, 'Hey, Steve wasn't wearing a mask.' He's not going to issue me a ticket."

If you do receive a ticket, it's a misdemeanor, which means you might have to go to court.

"It's basically going to be treated like a traffic ticket that you would get," Shellist said. "Whether or not they should get lawyers to defend them on these types of things, I guess it depends on how busy the person is."

Legal experts said the judge could also change the $250 penalty.

Shellist said Houston could've started writing tickets following the governor's mandate last month.

In El Paso, officers have had the ability to issue $250 tickets for a month. More than 600 complaints have been made, but only 21 warnings have been issued, and just one ticket.

In Bexar County, 465 complaints have been made, with one warning and 11 citations issued.

In Mesquite, there's been nearly 60 complaints, but no tickets.

Legal experts say they wouldn't be surprised if some lawyers challenge the mayor's order in court.

Follow Nick Natario on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.