Even if the former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is found guilty of murdering George Floyd, he will qualify to receive what could amount to around $50,000 a year in state pension payments.
But how much of that money he will see is less certain: Members of Mr. Floyd’s family, who are expected to file a wrongful-death lawsuit against Mr. Chauvin and the city, may be able to seize his pension distributions if they obtain a sizable judgment.
Some states force public employees who are convicted of serious crimes to forfeit their state pensions. But Minnesota does not, and the agency that distributes them said that could be changed only by legislative action.
Former employees qualify for benefits “if they meet length-of-service requirements, regardless of whether termination of employment was voluntary or involuntary,” the agency, the Minnesota Public Employees Retirement Association, said in a statement. “Under state law, being charged or convicted of a crime does not impact a member’s benefit.”
Mr. Chauvin, 44, faces up to 40 years in prison if he is convicted of second-degree murder. He was a 19-year veteran of the Minneapolis police force before being fired, paying into a state pension system in which 40 percent of contributions come from employees and 60 percent come from the police and other public employers.
If he chooses to wait until turning 55 to receive full retirement benefits, state officials say the formula for his pension checks would multiply his years of service by 3 percent, and then multiply that number by the average of his five highest annual salaries. Choosing to receive benefits at age 50 would result in a stream of smaller payments.
In other words, an officer who had 20 years of credited service with an average salary of $80,000 during the five highest-paid years would be eligible for an annual pension payout of $48,000 at age 55, or $4,000 per month.
After analyzing police payroll, salary and contract information, CNN estimated that Mr. Chauvin’s annual payments would be around $50,000 or more if he elected to begin receiving distributions at age 55.
On Friday, L. Chris Stewart, a lawyer for Mr. Floyd’s daughter Gianna Floyd, and Gianna’s mother, Roxie Washington, called for changes to police pension laws.
“Pensions are one of the leading reasons officers are not concerned about being terminated. It’s one of the root causes in some of the most horrific cases we see,” Mr. Stewart said in a statement. “The laws must change regarding pensions. If an officer is fired or arrested, they must either lose their pension entirely or have it reduced substantially.”
If Mr. Floyd’s family were to win a judgment against Mr. Chauvin, they would not be allowed to directly garnish his future benefits, which are shielded while they are still in the state pension system, said Amy Monahan, a professor at the University of Minnesota law school.
But once the checks start landing in Mr. Chauvin’s bank account, Mr. Floyd’s family might then be able to seize them.
“Once the money leaves the pension system, it could be available to creditors, so the protection is only when that money is still in the system,” Professor Monahan said.
Even so, the potential outcomes could be even murkier. It is not clear whether Mr. Floyd’s family or other creditors would have to seek court orders every month to seize monthly pension distributions, she said. Or what would happen if Mr. Chauvin ever sought bankruptcy protection from creditors if he were faced with a large judgment.