The accused found a wallet containing cash and credit cards. He was stopped by police within hours of finding the wallet. Police charged him with stealing by finding as he had not handed the wallet in to a police station. The real issue was whether or not he had decided to keep the goods or whether he intended to try and find the owner or hand them in to a police station.
One of the essential ingredients to the crime of larceny, or stealing, is to permanently deprive the true owner of the goods. If you decide to misappropriate the goods as your own, then you have might be found guilty of larceny by finding. There must be some reasonable prospect that the true owner can be located. Simply finding $50 in the street is unlikely to be larceny if you find it and keep it – however it depends on the circumstances of the finding. If you were walking behind a person who dropped the money and you picked it up and did not return it, then you may be guilty of a criminal offence.
The accused pleaded not guilty. We obtained the brief of evidence from the police and the matter went to a defended hearing of the police charges in the Local court. The client gave evidence that he had intended to hand the wallet in to police but had not been near a police station and had been busy following the time that the wallet was found. There was no evidence that the client had appropriated the property to his own use. The money and credit cards were still in the wallet. Common sense might suggest that if someone wanted to steal the money, they would have tossed the cards and the wallet. However, police often are faced with people who have another person’s credit card for illegal purposes – hence the need to take this matter to hearing. He was found not guilty and the charge was dismissed.