What the Attorney General
Can Do for You
The Attorney General is the constitutional, statewide elected official who acts as the attorney for the State of Texas. The Attorney General:
- enforces state consumer protection laws;
- collects court-ordered child support; and
- administers the Crime Victims' Compensation Fund.
The Attorney General also serves as legal counsel to boards and agencies of state government, issues legal opinions when requested by authorized requesters, and sits as an ex-officio member of various state committees and commissions. He defends against challenges to state laws and defends both state agencies and individual employees of the State when they are sued. The Attorney General files civil and criminal suits upon referral by other state agencies and, in some circumstances, has original jurisdiction to prosecute violations of the law without a referral from another agency.
How We Can Help You
Many Texans look to the Office of the Attorney General for guidance with disputes and legal issues. The agency receives hundreds of letters, phone calls and visits each week about crime victimsí compensation, child support, abuse in nursing homes, possible consumer fraud and other topics.
We can and do answer many of these questions directly. We can send you an application for crime victimsí compensation, for example, or for child support services. In some cases, we may refer you to another agency that serves your particular need. Under Texas law, however, we cannot give you legal advice or answer questions about particular laws or statutes.
Frequently Asked Questions
- I need an attorney. Can the Attorney General's office represent me?
- Does the Attorney General oversee private attorneys?
- I have a complaint against a private business. What should I do?
- Iím the victim of a violent crime in Texas. Can the Attorney General help?
- I have a question about open government. Does your office help the public with these questions?
- I have questions about my child support case. Where do I call?
- I know of someone who has broken the law. Can you prosecute the case?
- I have a complaint against my local law enforcement department. Who can help me?
- I think my local officials are breaking the law. What should I do?
- I have a complaint about another state agency. Can your office contact the agency on my behalf or take action against it?
- Who can enact or change state laws? How can I contact them?
- Where can I find copies of state and federal laws?
- Iím having trouble with my utility. Who can help me?
- Iím having difficulty finding someone to answer property tax questions. Who can assist?
- I have questions about my credit. Where can I go for help?
- Iím having trouble with my insurance company. Where can I go for assistance?
- I get lots of spam e-mail, including messages that offer child pornography. What should I do?
By law, the Office of the Attorney General may not represent private citizens in legal disputes. The Lawyer Referral Service at the State Bar of Texas can assist you in contacting an attorney in Texas with expertise relevant to your situation. The Lawyer Referral Service can be reached at (800) 252-9690.
Does the Attorney General oversee private attorneys?
The State Bar of Texas is the agency with authority to regulate attorneys in Texas. If you have a complaint about the actions of an attorney, contact the State Barís Grievance Committee at (800) 932-1900.
I have a complaint against a private business. What should I do?
You should begin by attempting to resolve your complaint directly with the business. If you cannot reach a satisfactory conclusion, you can report the matter to our Consumer Protection and Public Health Division. The division monitors business practices in Texas and may bring enforcement action against businesses that violate state consumer protection statutes. Any enforcement action taken by this agency is on behalf of the State of Texas.
You may be able to resolve your complaint by mediation or arbitration. Many cities have non-profit alternative dispute resolution centers and private mediators. In addition, your local Better Business Bureau may offer mediation or arbitration services between consumers and BBB member businesses. Small Claims Court or a Justice of the Peace court may also be able to help. If the issue is very complicated or a large sum of money is involved, you may wish to consult an attorney. The State Bar offers a Lawyer Referral Service at (800) 252-9690. If you cannot afford an attorney, you might be able to find assistance at a clinic sponsored by a nearby law school.
Iím the victim of a violent crime in Texas. Can the Attorney General help?
The purpose of the Attorney Generalís Crime Victimsí Compensation Program is to provide all available statutory benefits to victims of violent crime and their families who have incurred out-of-pocket expenses because of the crime. You can call the Crime Victimsí Compensation Program toll-free for more information at (800) 983-9933, or feel free to visit our Web site at www.oag.state.tx.us.
I have a question about open government. Does your office help the public with these questions?
For information about the Texas Public Information Act or the Texas Open Meetings Act, you may wish to call our open government hotline at (512) 478-OPEN (6736) or toll-free at (877) OPEN TEX (673-6839). In addition, our open government publications are available on our Web site at www.oag.state.tx.us or upon request by calling (512) 475-4413.
I have questions about my child support case. Where do I call?
For information about child support services, call the Office of the Attorney Generalís Child Support Division at (800) 252-8014 or consult your phone directory for the number to your local office. Information is also available on the Office of the Attorney General Web site at www.oag.state.tx.us.
Issues involving child custody and visitation are resolved through the court system. Federal law prohibits the Office of the Attorney General from intervening in these matters. Therefore, you may wish to discuss custody and visitation questions with a private attorney. The non-profit Family Law Hotline at (800) 777-3247 also provides legal counsel in family law matters.
I know of someone who has broken the law. Can you prosecute the case?
In Texas, the county or district attorney has original jurisdiction to pursue alleged violations of the law. These prosecutors are granted discretion in determining which cases will be prosecuted. The Attorney General has no role or oversight of their decisions. We can assist local prosecutors in criminal matters, but only at their request. Therefore, you may want to contact your local prosecutorís office for assistance.
I have a complaint against my local law enforcement department. Who can help me?
Complaints against a city police department or individuals within the department should be reported to the Internal Affairs section of the department or to the police chief. If you are not satisfied with the response to your complaint, you may want to contact the mayor, city manager and/or city council members. You can obtain the names and telephone numbers of these officials by calling your city hall.
Complaints against sheriffís departments or personnel within those departments should be reported to the Internal Affairs division of the department or to the sheriff. Although the sheriff is an independently elected official, the county judge and the county commissioners control the sheriffís budget. You may want to contact those officials. You can obtain their names and telephone numbers by calling your county courthouse.
I think my local officials are breaking the law. What should I do?
Share your concerns with your local county or district attorney. These officials have the authority to prosecute criminal wrongdoing.
I have a complaint about another state agency. Can your office contact the agency on my behalf or take action against it?
The policies, procedures and actions of other state agencies are overseen by the administrators of those agencies and are not subject to review by our office. You may want to continue working with the agency in question regarding your complaint. Many agencies have ombudsmen or complaint resolution procedures available to Texans.
>Ultimate oversight of state agencies is maintained by the Texas Legislature, which establishes agency mandates and approves agency budgets. You may want to contact your legislators regarding your concerns.
Who can enact or change state laws? How can I contact them?
Your state legislators are your representatives in the state lawmaking process. If you need assistance in determining who your legislators are, contact your county tax assessor/collector's office or use the "Who Represents Me" feature on the Texas Legislature Online Web site at www.capitol.state.tx.us.
Where can I find copies of state and federal laws?
You can access state statutes on the Texas Legislature Online Web site at www.capitol.state.tx.us. For additional information about Texas statutes, contact the Texas State Law Library. The Library, which houses all state and federal codes and statutes, can be reached at (512) 463-1722 or on the Web at www.sll.state.tx.us.
Iím having trouble with my utility. Who can help me?
The Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC) is the agency charged with ensuring that regulated electric and local telephone utilities observe state rules and service standards. Contact the PUC regarding your concerns at (888) 782-8477 or on the Web at www.puc.state.tx.us. The Texas Railroad Commission regulates natural gas utilities. You can contact that agencyís Gas Services Division at (512) 463-7167 or on the Web at www.rrc.state.tx.us. Water utilities and private water companies are regulated by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). You can reach TCEQís Water Permits and Resource Management Division at (512) 239-4300 or on the Web at www.tceq.state.tx.us.
Iím having difficulty finding someone to answer property tax questions. Who can assist?
If you disagree with the appraised value of your property, you can appeal it to the appraisal district. If you disagree with the tax rate, make your views known to the appropriate taxing authority (city, county, school district or other). If you want to complain about the actions of an appraiser, contact the Texas Appraiser Licensing and Certification Board at (512) 465-3950 or on the Web at www.talcb.state.tx.us.
The Comptroller of Public Accounts, Property Tax Division, reviews the effectiveness of taxing districts and provides local districts with technical assistance. You may want to contact that agency at (512) 305-8681 or visit their Web site at www.window.state.tx.us.
I have questions about my credit. Where can I go for help?
The Office of the Consumer Credit Commissioner (OCCC) provides information about consumer credit in Texas. You can reach that office at (800) 538-1579 or on the Web at www.occc.state.tx.us.
Iím having trouble with my insurance company. Where can I go for assistance?
The Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) is charged with regulating the stateís insurance industry under the provisions of the Texas Insurance Code. You can contact TDI at (800) 252-3439 or on the Web at www.tdi.state.tx.us.
I get lots of spam e-mail, including messages that offer child pornography. What should I do?
The Federal Trade Commission investigates complaints about commercial spam e-mail. Forward spam to the Commission at firstname.lastname@example.org. To complain about a specific company, go to the Commissionís Web site at www.ftc.gov. Report child pornography by forwarding the e-mail or Web site address to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) at www.cybertipline.com.
To reduce spam, use the e-mail filters offered by your Internet service provider and try blocking the e-mail addresses that sent the messages. To remove your e-mail address from many national direct e-mail lists, visit www.dmachoice.org.
If you have questions about the activities of this office, other state agencies or government in general, feel free to call us between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, at (800) 252-8011 (statewide) or (512) 463-2007. We have a staff of public affairs specialists who are available to help you. If you would rather contact us in writing, we can be reached as follows:
Office of the Attorney General
P.O. Box 12548
Austin, TX 78711-2548
on the internet: