Theft of Lost Property in Florida

theft or lost property attorney

People find things in the mall or public parks that individuals have forgotten or lost on a daily basis. It might be a pair of sunglasses or a cell phone, and the temptation to take a “finders keepers” attitude can happen. Don’t take this approach when coming across lost valuables at the beach, or anywhere because it is considered theft. Florida law requires citizens to report any abandoned or lost property they might encounter. This law is called theft by finding, and breaking it comes with harsh consequences.

What Qualifies as Lost Property?

It’s important to know that Florida has laws against keeping lost property that is:

  • Valuable
  • Tangible
  • Left in public areas like buses, restaurants, and parks
  • Doesn’t appear to have an owner

While this law applies to items with obvious value, it can also cover things that do not. This is why one should never keep a found object based on personal assumptions about its worth or its appearance. Keep in mind that it isn’t considered theft if the item is taken from roadside trash because it is safe to assume the owner no longer wants the item.

When an individual reports and turns over these lost items to law enforcement, they have the option to follow procedures to assume ownership. For a limited period, the original owner will have a chance to reclaim the item. If an owner never does this, then the person who found the item can officially take ownership of the property. The original owner will have no rights to it if he comes forward at a later date.

What is Theft by Finding?

Florida Statute 705.102(1) makes it very clear that failing to notify police about the finding of lost or abandoned property is considered theft. Not returning the item(s) when asked to do so is also categorized as theft.

Some examples of typical items protected by this law could include:

  • Electronic devices
  • Jewelry
  • Laptops
  • Bicycles
  • Building supplies
  • Some types of clothing

Determining the penalties for committing theft of lost or abandoned property will be based on the value of the item(s). There are two different levels of this theft type, and the actual court costs, fines, and jail time vary greatly depending on your case.

Petit Theft of Lost or Abandoned Property is illegally taking property with values under $300 and charged as a misdemeanor offense.

Grand Theft of Lost or Abandoned Property is taking property with values that exceed $300 and charged as a felony offense.

In addition to this, courts will also charge defendants with violations of Florida’s Theft Statute  812.014. Together, these two laws collaborate to further identify the type of conduct allegedly committed by the defendant. Doing this helps to determine an appropriate punishment.

Defenses Used Against Theft of Lost Property

There are a couple of defense arguments against the crime of Theft of Lost or Abandoned Property. The key point for each of these involves a plaintiff abandoning their attempt to possess the illegal items in question, and whether this abandonment was voluntary or not.

Voluntary abandonment involves a defendant changing their mind about holding on to lost property they found. The reason for this abandonment of theft should not be due to circumstances pressuring this action, but because of the accused’s conscience.

Involuntary abandonment means the opposite of voluntary, in that a defendant only abandons the theft because circumstances surrounding the crime influences them to do so. An example would be fear of being caught, not receiving a reward for returning the property, etc. Most courts do not view this type of abandonment as a valid defense whatsoever because of the motivation behind the action.

Hire a Reputable Orlando Criminal Defense Lawyer

For those arrested or charged with theft of lost property in the Orlando area, it’s critical to hire a criminal defense lawyer familiar with state theft charges. Penalties for these type of crimes can significantly affect one’s future job opportunities and reputation.

The Umansky Law Firm has over 100 years of practice to assist you in fighting theft charges. Our firm tries to minimize any fines or penalties you might face and protect your rights during trial. We understand that people facing charges in Orlando are worried about their future, families, and reputation and will fight your case aggressively. Contact us today at (407) 228-3838 to arrange for a free case evaluation to determine the next best steps in your case.