Operations-related questions

Can Texas Lottery tickets be used as prizes in a raffle?

Yes. The Texas Occupations Code, Title 13, Chapter 2002, Subchapter A states: “A raffle prize may consist of one or more tickets in the state lottery authorized by Chapter 466, Government Code, with a face value of $50,000 or less, without regard to whether a prize in the lottery game to which the ticket or tickets relate exceeds $50,000″.

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Many of our tips here at Rattlesnake County Crime Stoppers are about probation violators, but the Sheriff’s Office doesn’t do anything about them unless there is an arrest warrant. Therefore, we are unable to pay a reward for the information. Our probation officer says that if we let him know about the tips, he will issue an arrest warrant . Is it alright/legal if we send him an email about any probation violator tips we get so that he can issue a warrant, if he sees fit to do so?

1. Does Rattlesnake County Crime Stoppers have a provision in its bylaws to pay rewards for tips on misdemeanors? If your program does not, and you want to pay rewards, then you need to put it in the bylaws. Normally, Crime Stoppers programs only pay rewards on felonies, and a lot of times the probation violations are misdemeanors (e.g., someone reports that the probationer is violating the terms of his/her probation by entering a bar, staying out past court-ordered curfew, etc.).

2. If you receive a tip regarding a probation violation, the first step is to call the Probation Department (Community Supervision and Corrections Department) and ask to speak to the probation officer who is the case manager for the probationer that the tipster
reported to Crime Stoppers. The tip information would be given to the probation officer to investigate and find out if the information is correct; otherwise, it is just hearsay information. Until the probation officer verifies that the tip is correct, he cannot issue a warrant for the probationer’s arrest and no reward should be paid. The key word here is INVESTIGATE–and this is what
the probation officer would do.

3. If the investigation verifies the information reported by the Crime Stoppers tipster, the probation officer can file a motion to revoke the person’s probation (for serious violations) or summon the probationer to appear before a judge for a review of the case. If probation is revoked, then the probation department will issue a warrant for the probationer’s arrest and a Crime Stoppers tip can be paid.

4. An important part of this process involves the Crime Stoppers program providing training to the probation department regarding the anonymity of Crime Stoppers tips. Probation officers need to be made aware that all Crime Stoppers tip information is
confidential and any tip records they receive, especially by email, should NOT be disseminated or placed in case jackets that are open for inspection by attorneys and the courts. The probation officers must also be taught by Crime Stoppers that they should not say anything to anyone that might inadvertently give away the identity
of the tipster.

This is the process that should be followed.

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How can I get up-to-date information on the 82nd Texas Legislature?

Visit the Texas Legislature website. You can track bills, search archives and current bill text, view house and senate calendars, and much more. Register for their Bill Alert service to receive e-mail notification regarding changes in a particular bill’s status.

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My organization is tax exempt. Do we have to collect sales tax??

The tax exemption is for purchases, not for the organization’s sales. An exempt organization must get a sales tax permit and collect and remit sales tax on all items it sells. There is no fee for the permit, and applications are available from the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts website. There are some exceptions. A 501(c)(3) organization can hold two separate one-day tax-free sales or auctions each calendar year. During each one-day sale, the organization does not need to collect sales tax. There are additional provisions for meals and food products, annual banquets and suppers, publications, etc. For more information, visit the Texas Comptroller.

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My Crime Stoppers program wants to hold a raffle. What do I need to do?

An organization is not required to register with the state before conducting a raffle. However, be aware of certain restrictions while planning a raffle. The Charitable Raffle Enabling Act only allows “qualified organizations” to hold up to two raffles per calendar year, under certain circumstances. Most Crime Stoppers organizations qualify as a “non profit organization that has existed for at least three preceding years”. Additional restrictions include:

  • Raffle tickets may not be advertised state wide or through paid advertisements.
  • Each ticket must include the name and address of the organization, the prizes, and a description of each prize to be awarded with a value over $10.
  • The prize cannot be money.
  • Only members of the organization may sell tickets.

This is only a partial listing of raffle restrictions. Consult Chapter 2002 of the Occupations Code for a complete list. Remember to Keep It Legal ! An unauthorized raffle is considered gambling under the Texas Penal Code. Conducting an illegal raffle is a Class A misdemeanor and participating in one is a Class C misdemeanor.

For more information on the requirements, consult:

Ch 2002, Charitable Raffles

Office of the Attorney General, or an attorney.

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What bank accounts should our Crime Stoppers program have?

All Crime Stoppers programs that receive court funds must have TWO separate bank accounts. The first account is the program’s operating, or general, account. This account contains funds that the program raises itself in the community. When donors give money to the local program specifying the donation be used to pay rewards, then that money should be deposited in the operating, or general, account, with a notation made in the bookkeeping records that it is to be used for reward payments. Or, your program may choose to open a separate donated reward account in which to deposit these funds.

The second bank account is the “restricted account”. Each local program that accepts fees from the court system MUST open a restricted account to house these funds, as mandated by statute (Section 414.010[b], Texas Government Code). Most of the reporting on the Annual Probation Fee and Repayments Report deals with this bank account. These funds are subject to audit, and you must report these annually on the Texas Crime Stoppers Council Probation Fee and Repayment Report. Local Crime Stoppers programs must use these funds to pay rewards; however, each program can take 20 percent of the funds received each year and transfer the money to the operating, or general, account to cover administrative costs of the program.

If you have a campus program and/or funds with additional restrictions, you may need additional accounts. For example, you may have an operations account, restricted/probation fees account, donated reward account, campus account, and a reserve account. You may ask the advice of a banker or accountant to determine what best serves your program.

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What insurance does our program need?

It is up to your board. However, we recommend board-paid liability insurance. Grants from the governor’s office require a fidelity bond to cover fraud, embezzlement, and the like. Programs with office space and employees may need property and liability insurance. Many programs carry nonprofit directors and officers’ coverage (D & O). Insurance is complex, so speak to a licensed agent about your particular needs. More information is available through the Texas Department of Insurance at www.tdi.state.tx.us.

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What phone and answering service options does my Crime Stoppers program have?

Use a digital cellular telephone, if you take tips via cell service, to minimize eavesdropping. Answering machines are still acceptable. Keep the machine secure and use the type with battery back-up, so you do not lose your messages to a power failure. Several answering services are available to take your tips after hours, or 24 hours, depending upon your needs. Prior to signing a contract, make sure that the service has experience answering tips lines and that you are comfortable with their tip-taking procedures.

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Is it an acceptable practice to transfer unclaimed rewards into our operating account under the assumption the informant donated the money as a gift?

No. It is not acceptable to consider this money a gift from the person because the program cannot produce documentation regarding the identity of the donor for the Internal Revenue Service nor documentation from the informant relinquishing their right to the money. Return the money to your reward account. Texas Government Code Section 414.010 specifically outlines the purpose of court generated fees and reward accounts. The statute does not contain a provision for “gifts”from anonymous informants.

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If we are a certified program but do NOT receive any court fees to use for paying rewards or for restitution, must we still send in the Annual Probation Fee and Repayment Report?

Yes. Chapter 414.010(a), Texas Government Code, states that “not later than January 31 of each year, a Crime Stoppers organization that receives or expends repayments or payments shall file a detailed report with the Council.” The Council, in its August 1, 2003, adoption of new rules for certification, placed the following rule in the Texas Administrative Code (Section 3.9010): “A Crime Stoppers organization that is certified by the Council shall submit to the director of the Council an Annual Probation Fee and Repayment Report postmarked no later than January 31 of each year.” Programs that do NOT receive any court fees must fill out the report form that is mailed to them in late December of each year, putting the number 0.00 (zero) in the blanks. Then both the chairman and the treasurer must sign the report, date it, and mail it to the Director, Texas Crime Stoppers Council, Office of the Governor.

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The Conditions of Continuing Certification form requires that we submit a letter from the relevant community supervision and corrections department (CSCD) stating the amount of probation fees disbursed to the organization during the two-year certification period. What should we do if we do NOT receive any CSCD funds? How can we fulfill this certification requirement?

This document is mandated by the Council as a condition of continuing certification [Section 3.9000(e)(5)(B), Texas Administrative Code]. If your program does NOT receive funds from the CSCD or court system, the Council recommends that you draft a letter to the director of the Council stating this fact. Include the letter with the documents submitted for continuing certification review. The letter should be on the local program’s stationary, should consist of no more than one short paragraph, and should state that the program did not receive any funds from the CSCD or court system, either for probation fees or restitution, during the preceding two years. The letter should have a date on it and the names of the chairman and treasurer. The chairman and treasurer should both sign the letter.

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