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Understanding mislaid property laws

On Behalf of | Mar 9, 2017 | Criminal Defense

We here at Mark B. Arthur PC often notice that many of those who end up facing criminal charges rarely set out to break any laws. Rather, a simple unfamiliarity with what the law may be in some cases is typically what lands them in hot water. If you have experienced this same misfortune, specifically in regards to an item you may have found lost or abandoned, then understanding state statutes may support your claim of being unaware that you were doing anything wrong.

Mislaid property includes personal items that an owner may have left behind with the intention of coming back and retrieving. Should you come across such an item, and cannot find the owner in the vicinity, does it immediately become yours? Not according to Virginia law. The Code of Virginia states that any tangible property found to be mislaid is not considered to be officially abandoned unless it remains unclaimed for five years.

An example of this may be if you were to find a laptop computer inside a local university testing center or library. If you take the computer, only to be later contacted by the owner asking for it back, you are legally required to return it if the claim is made within a five-year period. If you do not, the owner could have you charged with theft.

An exception to this rule may be if you own a property were a roommate or tenant is staying. State law says that if a rental agreement has ended and you have given notice to the tenant warning that unclaimed items will be disposed of, you can assume ownership of any property left behind 24 hours after the lease has expired.

You can learn more about avoiding theft charges by continuing to explore our site. 


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