Most in Charlotte may not have any difficulty defining what “theft” is: someone taking something from another. This may be why excuses offered by as to why someone was found to be in possession of another’s property are dismissed as being just that. At the same time, however, most have encountered a situation where they have come across something that appears to be lost and taken possession of it. In such a case, they are retaining another’s property, yet does keeping a lost item constitute theft

According to information shared by the Cornell Law School, whether or not an item is truly “lost” depends on the circumstances in which it was found. A lost item is something that one would reasonably surmise as having been unintentionally left by its owner. Something intentionally used but then forgotten, however, is classified as “mislaid property.” An example of mislaid property might be a wallet left on a bar in a restaurant. Whoever finds it could probably guess that its owner pulled it out to pay his or her tab, but then forgot it. In such a case, one is obliged to leave the wallet with the owner of the establishment given that its owner would likely return there in search of it. 

Lost property that has been unintentionally misplaced might be more difficult to return to its owner. Yet if such property offers any hints of ownership, one must attempt to find the owner. In a ruling issued by the North Carolina Court of Appeals, it was clearly stated that the state considers one to be guilty of theft if one has reasonable means to find the owner of lost property yet makes no attempt to do so. This is true even if the finder does not personally know the owner.