View Full Version : Are law enforcement officers eligable for reward money?

06-02-2003, 08:55 AM
In this article on MSNBC this morning here (http://www.msnbc.com/news/920361.asp?0cv=CA01) it says that bombing suspect Eric Rudolph had a $1,000,000.00 reward out for his capture. So is the arresting officer going to see a penny of this money? Can law enforcement collect rewards? What about the military? If a PFC 1st class is the one who shoots and kills Osama Bin Laden, can he collect the millions of dollars on his head?

06-02-2003, 09:31 AM
Like most legal questions, the answer is...it depends.

First, the organization offering the reward can set the rules. So, if the fine print says "must meet eligibility requirements" and the "winner" doesn't meet the requirements, then no money.

Second, there is a line of legal cases which suggest that if a person is acting within the scope of a pre-defined duty (i.e. like a police officer who is on his or her beat) then they cannot be eligible for reward money that would reward them for merely doing the job that they were already bound to do. The legal basis for these cases is that the "winner" was under no special duty as a result of the reward and therefore the contract between the organization offering the reward and the "winner" lacked mutual consideration.

Finally, it is generally accepted that if a police officer (or someone else with a duty) is "off-duty" (i.e. a NYPD officer travelling in Florida), then such person could be eligible for the reward in the foreign jurisdiction if he or she happened to earn it (by catching one of the Florida felons).

Even with the rules set forth above, some organizations will still give rewards to otherwise "ineligible" recipients. For example, the Gay Mens Health Crisis gave a reward to the janitor that found Andrew Cunanan a few years back even though many governmental rewards were withheld.

As for the PFC who catches Osama...remember that Osama's death would be a political issue and when politicians enter the fray, all bets are off. I would guess that the "lucky" PFC would be taken care of quite nicely even if he or she doesn't receive the $1M reward in a gaudy ceremony.

06-02-2003, 09:33 AM
In terms of contract law, the answer would be no. For a contact to exist, there must be offer, acceptance, and consideration (the "things being bargained for"). A reward offer is an offer for a unilateral contract, which is accepted by performance, which in this case is giving information leading to an arrest. The reward money is the government's consideration, performance is your consideration.

Police officers, on the other hand, have a "preexisting duty" to catch criminals in their jurisdictions. A preexisting duty can't serve as consideration, since the person already had an obligation to do it. Consideration as performance has to be something you don't have to do, or forbearance of doing something you have a legal right to do. Now, if the police officer put in extra hours on a case he wasn't assigned for the purpose of catching a criminal, or did it in a jurisdiction that wasn't his while on vacation, he was doing something he wasn't obligated to do and might have a claim to reward money, but merely catching a criminal while in the line of duty in his own jurisdiction won't get him anything.

Aaaand on preview I am beaten to the punch again. Curses!

This is all at common law, mind you, and could be modified by state or federal statute.

06-02-2003, 10:51 AM
Ryan, they don't give $1M, it's *UP TO* $1M:

The FBI is offering up to a $1,000,000 reward for information leading directly to the arrest of Eric Robert Rudolph."

You could call the people from that page & ask them if cops can collect it.

06-02-2003, 11:31 AM
Well then it would seem that the offer of a reward is perfunctory at best, since a majority of the time it would be a law enforcement officer who ultimately captures a wanted suspect. I guess that they will just have to make do with book deals and movie offers.

06-02-2003, 12:11 PM
Remember, though, they don't want you to try to capture the person; they want information so that they can capture the person. Rewards for information leading to arrest happen not infrequently.

06-02-2003, 02:20 PM
Not to hijack my own thread, but what are the legalites concerning civilian bounty hunting? If I had seen Eric Rudolph, say buying a key lime pie at Trader Joes, and I recognized him for who he was, can I just jump him and drag him into the nearest law enforcement center, sherrif's posseman style? I realize the risk in both mistaken identity or in physically accosting a wanted fugitive, but would I be liable for charges against me, and could I then collect the reward?

06-02-2003, 03:13 PM
In the state of Florida law enforcment are not elegible for the money.

This question makes me think of another reward question.
Some Charles Manson followers gave him up....told police where he was and gave specifics on the Sharon Tate Murders. Did those followers ever get the reward money that Sharon Tate's husband was offering? I think it was a million dollars also.

06-02-2003, 05:54 PM
Issues of contract law aside, it is generally figured to be against public policy for law enforcement officers to accept rewards for performing their duties, and they are typically barred by regulation from doing so. If this were not the case, people who could afford to post rewards would be given preferential treatment (not that the rich don't sometimes already), and crime victims could find themselves pressed into a "bidding war" to get the police to respond to their problems.