A few years ago I was sitting at the window high up in an office building watching a deserted street below. I saw a man walking in the street, he stopped when he saw something lying on the curb.
He picked up the object to inspect it closer and I saw that it was a blue jacket. He looked around, but there was no-one nearby, so he bundled it up under his arm and carried on walking.
His lucky day?
Maybe not. There is a little-known law called “Theft By Finding.”
This law recently made headlines when an Australian couple found $100 000 stitched into the lining of an old suitcase which they had legally bought for a few dollars at a charity shop.
A man had hidden his life savings in the old suitcase and his wife, unaware of the hiding place, had donated the bag to the Salvation Army. The police managed to track the buyers through their debit card and most of the money was retrieved and returned to the couple.
And this wasn’t an isolated incident. In 2009 a college student who found a mobile phone was arrested after handing it in to police.
He said, “What are you supposed to do when you find a phone? I told the last caller I would drop it off at the police station the next day. But they arrested me for theft by finding.”
In his case the complaint of theft was subsequently withdrawn and Paul was released without charge.
So the next time you ‘find’ something really appealing to you, think twice about “finder’s keepers”.