Properly handling lost or mislaid property

On Behalf of | Jun 9, 2020 | criminal defense

Facing an accusation of theft is likely something that you never anticipate having to deal with. Yet such was the same expectation of many of our past clients here at Tinari, O’Connell & Osborn, LLP. That changed for them (and perhaps for you, as well) after coming across lost property in Central Islip. 

When it comes to the discovery of lost or mislaid property, there is no presumption of a right of ownership simply through finding something. Rather, you need to know how to handle such an item in order to avoid a subsequent accusation of theft. 

Dealing with lost property 

New York state laws define lost property as any item(s) intentionally or accidentally left behind by an owner. Included in this is property an owner apparently abandoned, treasure trove (items of value hidden by an owner) and waifs (items lost or discarded during the commission of a crime). Per Section 252 of New York’s Personal Property Law, if you come across such property, you must try to return it to its owner. If you discover it on private property, handing it over to the owner of the property may suffice in this regard. If you cannot find the owner, you are to turn it in at the police station in whose jurisdiction you found it. 

Claiming lost property 

The law requires law enforcement to store any lost property turned in to them for the following time periods: 

  • Property valued at less than $100: Three months 
  • Property valued between $100-$500: Six months 
  • Property valued between $500-$5000: One year 
  • Property valued at greater than $5000: Three years 

If after that time the owner does not come forward, you can then claim the property. 

You can learn more about the nuances of local criminal law by continuing to explore our site.