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What Happens if You Find Money or Jewelry? Can You Keep It?

Posted on April 16, 2020 in Theft & Shoplifting

The old saying, finders keepers, losers weepers, is not correct. In Arizona, a person commits theft if, without lawful authority, the person knowingly: comes into control of lost, mislaid or misdelivered property of another under the circumstances providing means of inquiry as to the true owner and appropriates such property to the person own or another uses without reasonable efforts to notify the true owner. Does this mean if you find lost property and you do not make an effort to search for the original owner and return the property, you are at risk of being charged with theft?

Returning Property with Identification

The most common case we see regarding this issue is someone finds a person’s wallet stuffed with cash. More often than not the wallet would have identification in it. Thus, it would be easy to determine the rightful owner. You cannot keep the wallet or any of its contents. The wallet would have identification in it. If you kept the wallet or its contents and didn’t make any reasonable efforts to find the owner, you could be charged with theft.

Returning Property with No Identification

What if the item found did not have identification? This would be related to finding items such as jewelry or cash. How could you be charged with theft if in possession of found item with no identification on it? An example of a case that we represented a previous client is this person found a diamond ring in a massage room at a massage therapist’s office. Although the ring does not have any identifying information on it, the circumstance made it likely to find the owner. It likely belonged to a person who previously got a massage in that room earlier in the day.

Thus, it would be theft to just keep the ring and not make a reasonable effort to notify the rightful owner. Regardless of whether the item you have found is identifiable or not, the most advisable route is to make a reasonable effort to find the rightful owner and turn it into your local police department for safekeeping while attempts are made to find the owner. The likelihood is the true owner is searching for their lost item, and they may contact the police to report it stolen.

What To Do If You Are Charged with Theft?

No matter how severe your theft charges are, contact the legal team at AZ Defenders to avoid harsh penalties. Our Phoenix theft defense lawyers have decades of experience in handling many different types of cases rack record of won cases. Call today at 480-456-6400 or contact us online for a free consultation. Get our criminal defense attorneys in Phoenix started on your individualized defense today to help you get the best possible result in your case.