Finding an item that someone else has lost, such as money or jewelry, may seem lucky. However, if you keep the item that you found, you may end up with a criminal charge as well. In Georgia, this crime is called theft of lost or mislaid property.

What Is Theft of Lost or Mislaid Property in Georgia?

A person is guilty of theft of lost or mislaid property when they find property they know has been lost and they keep it without trying to return it. The property could be lost or mislaid. Regardless of how the person came into control of the property, they did not a reasonable effort to give the property back to the lawful owner.

What Qualifies as Mislaid or Lost Property?

Mislaid property is any type of property the owner voluntarily gave up with the intent to get it back later. For instance, the owner intentionally put the property in a temporary place and forgot about it. Lost property is property an owner no longer has because of negligence or accident. In both situations, the property is not abandoned because the true owner has voluntarily surrendered or gave up the property.

Is Theft of Lost or Mislaid Property the Same as Receiving Stolen Property?

No. Theft by receiving stolen property is accepting or purchasing property a person knows or should have known was stolen. This generally implies that the property was acquired through larceny or false pretenses, not through the rightful owner simply misplacing it.

What Is the Penalty for Misdemeanor Theft of Mislaid Property in Georgia?

If the property involved is worth $1,500 or less, then the crime is a misdemeanor. The punishment for a misdemeanor in Georgia is a maximum of 12 months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.

Should I Contact a Lawyer?

Yes. Contact a criminal lawyer immediately if you have been accused of stealing property that was lost or mislaid. A lawyer in Georgia can represent you in court and advise you of possible defenses you can use to fight the charge.