Where's My Buy-In, Officer?

More than a few Friends of Unfair Park have asked: Where does the money seized from poker-room raids, like the ones that took place over the weekend, wind up? Hey, it's a good question; even some officers in vice I talked to yesterday and today couldn't answer it. And some defense attorneys in town also had no definitive answer. The closest we got to a satisfying one was provided by Senior Corporal Donna Hernandez in the Dallas police media relations department.

Turns out there were two different citations issued Friday: The owners of the card rooms were arrested on the charge of promotion of gambling, which is a Class A misdemeanor, the punishment for which could be up to a year in jail and a fine not to exceed $4,000. The players were cited only for gambling, which is a Class C misdemeanor carrying a fine of no more than $500 with no jail time. All of the money police found in all three rooms--Jackie's, JB's and Ace-High--was seized. And it will all stay in the police property room till the cases go to court.

Should the card-room operators popped on the promotion charge be found guilty, the money will likely go back into the vice budget--the same way money seized from drug busts goes back into the narcotics budget for things like, oh, equipment. "It's like what happens to money seized from narcotic sales," Hernandez says. "It eventually goes back into the department if it's indeed found to be a profit from an illegal activity." (Though, in some instances, Dallas County, which prosecutes the cases, also gets a bite of the take.)

But what about the players' money? Like, say you were sitting at the green felt when the cops barged in flashing automatic weapons and you had $284 in front of you at the time. What happens then? Some defense attorneys shed a little light here.

Everyone who got a gambling ticket will have the chance to clear his or her name in court or simply pay the fine and take deferred adjudication. If they go the latter route, they'll forfeit their poker scratch; it's not a guilty plea, but might as well be. The only way to get back the money is to fight the ticket and get acquitted; good luck with all that. And don't plan on getting it back if the case is dismissed: The statute of limitations on a misdemeanor is three years, which means the police can hang on to the evidence for those 36 months. In short, better get a backer. --Robert Wilonsky


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