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Our question today is adapted from my Feb. 26 appearance on “Law Talk,” a segment during the WETM News at Noon. In “Law Talk,” the Ziff Law lawyers talk about legal issues that come up with events. The segment is usually on at about 12:20 p.m. Wednesdays.
Q: Two Horseheads residents have been charged with grand larceny after being accused of stealing a large sum of money that was dropped by a Walmart shopper in Horseheads on Feb. 18. Why are suspects Heidi Hoskins and Anthony Coil, both 36, facing such a serious charge? They found money that was dropped by another shopper.
Jim Reed: The crime of Larceny includes theft by acquiring, and then failing to return, lost property.
What the law says is that if you know the property is lost, you have an obligation to make reasonable efforts to find the owner and return their lost property to them.
In this case, there is an envelope with cash on the floor at Walmart. Somebody didn’t leave it there on purpose. The bottom line is, someone lost it. And the suspects’ obligation, under the law, is to make a reasonable effort to find the person who lost the money. They can’t just pocket the money and say “oh well, it’s mine now.”
“Reasonable efforts” to return the money might be to turn it in to the store or turn it in to the police. You need to show that you made some effort to get the lost property back to the rightful owner or you could be charged with Larceny.
If you don’t try to do the right thing by returning the lost property, there can be really bad consequences. In this case the charge is Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree, a Class E felony with a sentence of up to four years in state prison. Larceny in the Fourth Degree involves property of $1,000 to $2,999.
If you find over $3,000 and don’t attempt to return it, that is a Third-Degree Larceny that carries a penalty of up to seven years in jail.
We were all taught by our parents that if you find lost property, do the right thing – make a reasonable effort to try to get it back to its owner.
You can avoid some very serious legal consequences by doing the right thing.
Please appreciate that while we are happy to try to provide you some basic legal information, doing so does NOT create an attorney/client relationship (unless you formally retain us to represent you). The information provided is general information and should NOT be considered legal advice. Also appreciate that in order to give definitive legal answers, it is critically important that a lawyer meet with you to get all the necessary details to provide a definitive answer so we encourage you to review the information we are providing with your own lawyer.
Thanks for reading!