Theft of Lost or Abandoned Property in Florida

Finders Keepers, Losers Weepers - not in Florida.

In Florida, if a person finds lost or abandoned property they are required to report the finding to law enforcement. [1]

This law applies equally to obviously valuable items such as lap tops and electronic devices, as well as to less obviously valuable items such as hubcaps and bicycles.

The failure to report the finding of the lost or abandoned property to law enforcement, or return the property when asked, is considered theft.

Penalties for Theft of Lost or Abandoned Property

The penalties for the crime of Theft of Lost or Abandoned Property are determined by the value of the property found.

Petit Theft of Lost or Abandoned Property

If the property is worth less than $300, the crime is considered Petit Theft of Lost or Abandoned Property and is punished as a charge of Petit Theft.

Grand Theft of Lost or Abandoned Property

If the property is worth more than $300, the crime is considered Grand Theft of Lost or Abandoned Property and is punished as a charge of Grand Theft.

Defenses to Theft of Lost or Abandoned Property

In addition to the pretrial defenses and trial defenses that can be raised in any criminal case, the primary defenses to the crime of Theft:

  1. Lawfully Claimed Property
  2. Valueless Property

Lawfully Claimed Property

Under Florida's Lost or Abandoned property statute, a person who finds lost or abandoned property must report it to law enforcement and deposit with law enforcement a reasonable sum sufficient to cover the agency's cost for transportation, storage, and publication of notice.

If this procedure is followed and no claim is made, the person is given rightful ownership of the property - even if the previous owner comes forward after the fact. [2]

Valueless Property

Simply put, it is impossible to steal trash because Florida law only criminalizes the stealing of "property."

Property is defined as "anything of value" and the value is the "the market value of property at the time and place of the offense or, if such cannot be satisfactorily ascertained, the cost of replacement of the property within a reasonable time after the offense." [3]

Thus if someone places something by the road, it has become trash that presumably has no value.

Voluntary Abandonment

It is a defense to the crime of Theft of Lost or Abandoned Property to abandon the attempt to commit the theft under circumstances indicating a complete and voluntary renunciation of the criminal purpose. [4]

Involuntary Abandonment

While voluntary abandonment is a defense to the crime of Theft of Lost or Abandoned Property, involuntary abandonment is not a defense. The distinguishing characteristic between the two is the reason for abandoning the theft. [5]

A voluntary abandonment occurs when your conscious, unprompted by encountered circumstances, causes you to withdraw from the attempted theft.

On the other hand, an involuntary abandonment occurs when unanticipated circumstances (i.e. belief scheme discovered) causes a person to withdraw from the attempted theft.

Contact Criminal Defense Lawyer Richard Hornsby

If you have been arrested or charged with the crime of theft in Central Florida or the Greater Orlando area, contact Criminal Defense Lawyer today.

The initial consultation is free and I am always available to advise you on the proper course of action that can be taken.

References

  1. Section 705.102(1), Florida Statutes
  2. Section 705.102(2), Florida Statutes
  3. Holloway v. State, 755 So. 2d 169 (Fla. 4th DCA 2000)
  4. Longval v. State, 914 So. 2d 1098 (Fla. 4th DCA 2005)
  5. Carroll v. State, 680 So. 2d 1065 (Fla. 3d DCA 1996)