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Is it stealing to keep lost possessions?

Posted by William Walraven | Jun 06, 2022 | 0 Comments

You may be walking down the street when you run across a lost wallet. You open it up and find a few gift cards, a movie ticket and a few twenties. You think to yourself, what harm would come to you if you took the wallet – after all, someone else will just take it if you don't.

Some laws consider what should be done with lost possessions. Here's what you should know:

California law asks you to return lost property 

If you find lost property, then you have a civic duty to do everything you can to return it to its owner. California law requires you to return lost property only if you have any contact information to return it. 

You may have found a wallet or purse that includes a license, insurance or business card that makes it easy for you to contact the owner. If you keep the lost possessions knowing you can contact the owner, then you could be charged with theft. 

You, however, may be in a supermarket or convention when you find something that doesn't have any contact information attached. In most cases, the location you're at can store the lost property in a “Lost and Found” or send an announcement to everyone that might be involved at an event. This is an alternative way of committing to finding the owner of lost property.

On the other hand, if you find a loose twenty on the ground, it's unlikely you'll find an owner. This leads some people to take the lost possessions for themselves.

If you've been accused of theft after finding lost property, then you may need to know your options to defend against the claims against you. 

About the Author

William Walraven

Education Golden Gate University School of Law, San Francisco, California Juris Doctor - 2008 University of California at Los Angeles B.A. - 2000 Major: Psychology Past Positions McGrane LLP, Associate Attorney Trepel, Greenfield, Sullivan and Draa LLP, Associate Attor...


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