OLR Research Report

October 15, 2003




By: Christopher Reinhart, Associate Attorney

You asked about statutes on rewards for information relating to a crime, whether people can contribute to the amount of the award, and whether people can establish their own rewards.

Two Connecticut statutes authorize rewards.

In the case of a felony or capital felony, the governor, at the request of the state’s attorney for the judicial district where the crime occurred, may publicly offer a reward of up to $ 50,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person who committed the crime or the arrest and detention of the person if he fled after conviction. The state pays the informer under order of the convicting court (CGS 54-48). According to Jack Cronan of the chief state’s attorney’s office, there is no set procedure for requesting that a reward be offered.

For high crimes, the chief executive officer of a municipality where the crime occurred can publicly offer a reward of up to $ 2,500 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the guilty person. When the crime causes the death of a police officer or firefighter, the chief executive officer, with a vote of 2/3 of the municipality’s legislative body or 2/3 of those voting at a town meeting, can publicly offer a reward of up to $ 20,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the guilty person. The municipality pays the reward under order of the convicting court (CGS 54-49). It is unclear which crimes would be considered “high crimes. ” Black’s Law Dictionary defines a high crime as a crime “offensive to public morality, though not necessarily a felony. ” Two Connecticut cases addressed this statute in the late 1800’s (when the statute addressed rewards for high crimes or misdemeanors) and both cases involved town rewards for arsonists (Crofut v. Danbury, 65 Conn. 194 (1894), In re Kelly, 39 Conn. 159 (1872)).

Both statutes require the government, either the state or the municipality, to pay the reward but neither statute specifies the source of the funds.

Jack Cronan also stated that he was not aware of any law prohibiting a private individual from offering a reward. According to American Jurisprudence, any person with capacity to contract can ordinarily offer a reward (Rewards 11). But a reward must have a lawful purpose and cannot be against public policy (Rewards 9). Few Connecticut cases discuss rewards but we found two from the 1800s that discussed private rewards: In re Russell (51 Conn. 577 (1881)) involved a private reward after a burglary and Marvin v. Treat (37 Conn. 96 (1870)) involved a private reward regarding a stolen horse and carriage.

The statutes also provide a court procedure to determine who is entitled to a reward. When a reward is offered for recovery of stolen property or information leading to the conviction of a criminal, the convicting court or the superior court in the judicial district where the offense occurred can decide the claims of parties to the reward. If there is more than one claimant, the court or its presiding judge determines who is justly entitled to the reward and can apportion it equitably among them (CGS 54-52). This statute does not specify whether it involves claims to a private or public reward but it originally addressed private rewards offered by a society or person (1889, ch. 103).

CR: ro