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As a general rule a municipal corporation may not offer rewards for the arrest and conviction of persons violating the criminal laws of a state. This rule is based on the ground that the enforcement of the criminal laws of a state is no part of the function of the municipality and its courts. An exception should exist in the case of rewards offered for the conviction of incendiaries because of the fact that the crime of arson constitutes a peculiar menace to the public property of the city as well as to the property, and even lives, of its inhabitants.
The citizen brought an action against the city to recover a reward offered by the city for the arrest and conviction of an arsonist. The husband and his wife were made defendants on allegations that they were claiming the reward. The husband and his wife appeared, and by cross-bill, they sought the reward. The trial court sustained general and special exceptions urged by the city to the citizen's petition and the cross-bill. The citizen contended that she was entitled to the reward pursuant to a city ordinance.
Was the offer of reward for the arrest and conviction of an arsonist within the power of the city?
The court reversed the judgment sustaining the exceptions and remanded the case. The court held that as a general rule, a municipal corporation could not offer rewards for the arrest and conviction of people violating criminal laws of the state. However, the court noted that an exception should exist in the case of rewards offered for the conviction of incendiaries because the crime of arson constituted a peculiar menace to the public property of a city as well as to the property and lives of its inhabitants, and the offer of the reward was in the power granted the city.