Theft in the Taking of Abandoned Property?

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Jonathan95

Puritan Board Sophomore
More specifically, money found on the street that does not belong to you. Taking is theft?

When is something considered "abandoned" or "up for grabs" if ever?

I don't know if it can ever just be assumed that someone has given up possession of their property due to some arbitrary time lapse.
 

chuckd

Puritan Board Sophomore
When I was a teenager, I was driving behind someone and they threw something out the window that looked like cash. Curiosity got the best of me so I circled around and stopped. First bill was $100 followed by some $20s, $10s, etc. Probably $250 total.

I kept it, but to this day I think back to what possibly motivated them to do that.
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
If it is nominal like a penny I don't see a problem but if it is significant I'd wait to see if anyone posts a notice of the specific amount or close to it and the area lost, or you could tell the police you've found it if anyone reports the loss. The problem is that anyone can claim it if you make a too general announcement. If it is very old there are some laws I would think. Maybe someone who does metal detecting can inform what those are.
 

Jonathco

Puritan Board Freshman
As a youngster in small town America, I found a purse in the park that had a small baggie of marijuana, as well as a $20 bill. My parents and I took it to the police department and were told they'd hold it for a few weeks to see if anyone came and claimed it (unlikely, given pot was illegal at the time), and if no one claimed it, they'd call me to collect the $20. Two weeks later, as a happy 6 yr old boy, we got a call and I had $20 in new Lego money. :moneywings:
 

W.C. Dean

Puritan Board Sophomore
I would agree if you found a large sum of money on the ground somewhere not to spend it. As for abandoned property, like lots or houses, there are laws that allow for people to claim those after a certain number of years. I personally do not see a problem with that.
 

Edward

Puritanboard Commissioner
More specifically, money found on the street that does not belong to you. Taking is theft?

Laws may vary by state. But generally, there is an obligation to turn in found money to the police. If the owner can't be identified, or the money isn't claimed within a certain period of time, the finder can assert a claim to the money. Failure to follow the law will, in at least some jurisdictions, constitute theft.

As always, consult with a licensed attorney in your jurisdiction as to your individual situation,
 

SeanPatrickCornell

Puritan Board Sophomore
I think the general equity of Deuteronomy 22:1-3 would apply here.

Especially this part: "if your brother is not near you, or if you do not know him, then you shall bring it to your own house, and it shall remain with you until your brother seeks it; then you shall restore it to him."

And this part: " You shall do the same with his donkey, and so shall you do with his garment; with any lost thing of your brother’s, which he has lost and you have found, you shall do likewise; you must not hide yourself."
 

Jack K

Puritan Board Professor
If it is the sort of item we suspect the owner would want back, our duty is to make a reasonable attempt to return a lost item to the owner, and in some cases, where necessary, to safeguard what has been lost until the owner recovers it. However...

Where I live, with most items, I figure the best way to help the owner retrieve it is to leave it where I found it. The owner is most likely to return, looking for it, once he realizes it is missing. If I try to take it for "safekeeping" or even if I turn it in somewhere, I am likely to do more harm than good by moving it from where it was lost and thus frustrating any attempt to find it again.

(Granted, in a few situations, there may be an obvious place where the owner might inquire about a lost item, or the item may be of great value, and then turning it in somewhere might seem more likely to be helpful. And in rare situations, safekeeping may be necessary: a lost pet or a lost child, for instance, depending on the circumstances.)

I once lost a nice pair of prescription sunglasses in a busy part of Manhattan. They were in a case I set down on a railing while I sorted through a few papers, and I walked off without them. Within minutes, I realized I had left them and went back for them, but they were gone. Most likely, someone swiped them. But it's also possible that someone found them and decided to be "helpful" by turning them in somewhere. If so, that was no help, because I did not have the time to inquire at all the nearby shops or to find the local police precinct and ask there, on the slim chance they had been turned in. The best way for any passerby to be helpful would have been to do nothing.
 

Andrew35

Puritan Board Sophomore
When I was a teenager, I was driving behind someone and they threw something out the window that looked like cash. Curiosity got the best of me so I circled around and stopped. First bill was $100 followed by some $20s, $10s, etc. Probably $250 total.

I kept it, but to this day I think back to what possibly motivated them to do that.
I read something a few years back about the psychological play involved in destroying money, throwing it away, watching it burn, or whatever. It's probably the most powerful, "I don't give two poops" symbolic action you can take, practically anarchic. And has a massive psychological impact on observers. (Think about the Joker torching the money in The Dark Knight, assuming you've watched it.)

That's my best guess.
 
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Ben Zartman

Puritan Board Sophomore
Funny story, but true:
decades ago I dropped my wallet from the face of a 3,000-foot cliff, watching in dismay as it plummeted into the void. I later put up a lost wallet notice on the camp bulletin board. What do you know my notice was answered by a party of Germans who had been climbing up behind me. "Ja, ve found zee vallet on zee ledge. Vee haff spent zee money..." a pause. "Vould you like a beer?"
I was just glad to get my license and bank card back.
 

Andrew35

Puritan Board Sophomore
Funny story, but true:
decades ago I dropped my wallet from the face of a 3,000-foot cliff, watching in dismay as it plummeted into the void. I later put up a lost wallet notice on the camp bulletin board. What do you know my notice was answered by a party of Germans who had been climbing up behind me. "Ja, ve found zee vallet on zee ledge. Vee haff spent zee money..." a pause. "Vould you like a beer?"
I was just glad to get my license and bank card back.
So... how was the beer? :p
 

bookslover

Puritan Board Doctor
If I'm out for my daily walk, and I find $20 lying on the sidewalk, and if I look around and notice that I'm the only one around, then I've got myself $20 because, obviously, if no one is around, that means that that $20 has been lying there for awhile, so there's no one to give it back to. Found money.
 

Wretched Man

Puritan Board Freshman
Laws may vary by state. But generally, there is an obligation to turn in found money to the police. If the owner can't be identified, or the money isn't claimed within a certain period of time, the finder can assert a claim to the money. Failure to follow the law will, in at least some jurisdictions, constitute theft.

As always, consult with a licensed attorney in your jurisdiction as to your individual situation,
How would anyone claim cash? “Yeah, I lost a bunch of money on the sidewalk... it’s green and has President Jackson’s face on it. Was it by any chance turned in?”
 
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