You may share the same opinion of most in Fullerton in that the idea of your ever being accused of a crime as serious as theft may seem ludicrous to you. At face value, an allegation of theft seems fairly cut-and-dry: either you stole something or you did not. Yet ask many of those that have come to us here at The Law Office of Jacqueline Goodman seeking assistance, and they will tell you that conduct that you consider to be completely innocent can often lead to criminal scrutiny.
Take the finding of lost property. If you find something in a public place that is obviously lost, you may think that unless the owner is in the area looking for it, it belongs to you. Yet that may only hold true in certain cases. Section 485 of California's Penal Code says that you may be guilty of theft if you appropriate lost property for your own personal use. There is one major caveat associated with this law: in order for it to apply to your case, circumstances must exist that offer you knowledge of (or a means to find) the item's owner.
Say that you find a wallet left on a park bench. The wallet is likely to contain a drivers' license or some other document identifying its owner. If you have that information, you must make every effort to return the wallet (and its contents) to the owner. If what you find cannot easily be traced back to an owner, yet it is found in a location where the owner may be likely to return (such as a restaurant or office building), you are expected to hand it over to the property owner.
You can learn more about dealing with lost or mislaid property by continuing to explore our site.