Finders Keepers, Losers Weepers

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I am bothered by the Michigan laws regarding larceny. As a firm believer in the childhood rule of “finder’s keepers, loser’s weepers,” it irks me that Michigan law does not agree with this very basic concept, which makes total sense to me.

For example, if a person accidentally leaves their cell phone in the booth of a restaurant, and the next patron comes along and discovers the cell phone, she has two legal options. She can either leave the cell phone there or she can attempt to locate the rightful owner by either turning the phone in to the restaurant or contacting the proper authorities. Either way, she may not keep the cell phone for herself. If she does, she has committed a larceny.

It’s true that one cannot steal property that has been abandoned; however, the property must be truly abandoned for it to be up for grabs. It’s extremely unlikely for someone to abandon anything of value such as a cell phone or a piece of jewelry. It’s even more unlikely that a jury is going to believe that the property was truly abandoned, even if the original owner cannot be located.

My thoughts on the issue are simple: If someone is reckless or absent-minded enough to lose their property, it’s no one’s fault but their own. Loser’s weepers! If your property is so very special to you, you should take better care of it and not leave it behind. Kudos to the lucky person who happens to come along and discover that something of value is up for grabs! Finder’s keepers! Why should the person who happens to discover the lost item and takes advantage of an opportunity that presents itself be punished?

I am not arguing that people should not do the “right” thing and try to locate the true owner of property that they discover has been lost. Honestly, I hope that if someone found something of mine that I had misplaced, that it would be turned in for me to come back and claim. But if it isn’t, well, I guess I should have taken better care of it to begin with. And to the lucky person who found the property that I negligently left behind: I hope you take better care of it than I did. That person is not committing a theft against me; he or she is taking advantage of an opportunity that presented itself. In my opinion, a person who finds a lost wallet and doesn’t turn it in should not be classified the same as someone who steals a wallet from someone. Finding a lost item and failing to turn it in is not the same thing as stealing an item from someone who has taken the proper steps to maintain possession of the item.

Regardless of my personal feelings on the matter, the legislature has spoken. It is a larceny if you find something and keep it for yourself, so be careful out there. If you find a dollar in the parking lot, you better turn it in at the customer service window, or leave it where it lies, because as soon as you put it in your pocket to keep it for yourself, you have committed a larceny.