You might daydream about finding an envelope full of money on the street. However, what would you do if it actually happened to you? Finding money on the street could seem like a blessing. In reality though, it might be a curse. Many people agonize over what to do with the money. And there are good reasons for that. If you fail to act properly, then you could be guilty of petty larceny. Find out what you should do if you find money on the street.

What is Your Obligation?

Imagine finding $100,000 on the street. Would you slip it into your pocket and run to the bank? Or would you look for the rightful owner? In Tennessee, a senior woman found $100,000 sitting in a parking lot. She returned the money to the owner. However, that doesn’t often occur. Many people pocket the money and consider it a bonus.

If you find money on the street, then there are laws that you need to follow. Every state has its own laws regarding lost money or property. In some states, finding money and failing to return it could be petty larceny. It depends on your state’s laws, how you found the money, and what you did to attempt to return the money.

The laws are particularly strict if you can easily identify the owner of the money. For example, you might find a wallet with money inside. If the wallet contains any type of identification, then it is your responsibility to contact the owner. By ignoring the ID and keeping the money, you could be guilty of petty theft.

The same is true of finding money accompanied by any sort of identification. If there is a way to identify the owner easily, then you need to do so and contact them. It doesn’t matter whether you find the money in an abandoned car, purse, or envelope. In any situation, you need to attempt to identify and contact the owner. Otherwise, it might be theft.

What If There is No ID?

In some cases, you might find money with no way to identify the owner. This does not give you the right to keep the money. Depending on where you live, you might need to contact law enforcement. Some states require you to report the money that you find. After giving it to the police, you need to wait a certain amount of time. If the owner never claims it, then you can keep the money.

Failing to contact the police could be petty larceny. Whether or not you find identification, you should be proactive about your findings. In any situation, the police will give you back the money if no one claims it. You have nothing to lose by reporting your find. However, you have everything to lose by failing to report it.

Why is it Petty Larceny to Keep Money That You Find?

There is one simple reason for it being illegal to keep money that you find. If it was not illegal, then every criminal could say that they found instead of stole money. It would be an easy defense to theft charges. Instead of going to jail for theft, a criminal could claim that he found money and chose to keep it.

For that reason and that reason alone, keeping money that you find can be petty larceny. However, it isn’t that simple. You may be able to find a few dollar bills and keep it without penalty. Although this is still illegal, it is acceptable. Finding and keeping a few dollars is acceptable because the law considers it trivial. However, it is not acceptable if you come across the rightful owner and you lie about finding the money.

 Protecting Yourself

When you find a large sum of money, you need to protect yourself. Before you go to the police, you might want to consider contacting a lawyer. A lawyer can help you handle the situation and get the best outcome. With so much money at stake, you should be cautious. Your lawyer can make sure that you retrieve the money after the appropriate time passes. Additionally, he can help you legally keep the money. Although you might not realize it, your found money does count as taxable income. A lawyer can make sure that you take the necessary steps to claim the money.

You also need to protect yourself from scammers. If you find a large sum of money in front of a commercial establishment, you might think about handing it over to the establishment’s owner. However, this is a mistake. They might not be as honest as you think. Instead of reporting the money and finding the rightful owner, the individual could keep the money. You should contact a lawyer and only give the money to the police.

If you act carefully, you can prevent petty larceny charges and still keep the money. Finding an envelope full of money doesn’t need to be a curse.