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Who gets the reward for finding the body? Ask the lawyer

Q: Two friends are searching, but Person A finds someone’s remains on their own. Person A calls Person B over.  Person A is shaken up and asks Person B to report it to law enforcement. Who gets the reward? Would appreciate an explanation of the whole process.

C.D., Los Angeles

A: The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has a very instructive link online that sets forth the process for seeking a reward with regard to a crime, and includes a list of those matters for which an award is available. Go to bos.lacounty.gov/rewards.

I cannot say whether your situation qualifies without knowing more. Per the Los Angeles County link, the reward is contingent upon conviction of the wrongdoer.  As such, unless there is a separate award offered for simply finding the body, it is unclear at present if either of you would qualify for an award.

Note that the California Legislature also has established a crime tip reward program, by which the governor can offer: (1) a reward of up to $50,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of perpetrators of certain specified crimes, (2) up to $100,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction related to certain specified crimes against first responders, or (3) a reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction related to arson upon a place of worship. The reward may be issued only upon recommendation from law enforcement officials. To read the particulars go online, and type “Governor’s Reward Program Criteria with PC1247” in your web browser.

Bottom line, questions arise with your description: Does the finding of the remains lead to the apprehension of the culprit, or does it solve a covered crime? What writings are going to be submitted for the reward and what will they say? If the two of you were searching together, was there an agreement between you about sharing the reward, in whole or in part? And were you searching for the body because an award had been offered for its discovery?  If so, I anticipate that whoever made the offer to pay a reward has terms and conditions you can review and assess.

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Crime Stoppers

From online: “The Los Angeles Regional Crime Stoppers seeks to prevent and reduce crime by forming a partnership among the community, law enforcement and the media to offer anonymity and cash rewards to anyone providing information leading to an arrest.” The link is lacrimestoppers.org.

Orange County has a crime-stoppers program as well, which you can read about online at occrimestoppers.org.

If you live outside of Los Angeles and Orange counties, check to see if your county has a crime-stoppers program.

Ron Sokol has been a practicing attorney for more than 35 years, and has also served many times as a judge pro tem, mediator, and arbitrator.  It is important to keep in mind that this column presents a summary of the law, and is not to be treated or considered legal advice, let alone a substitute for actual consultation with a qualified professional.

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