Someone’s wallet can be picked up from the ground for only one purpose – to return it to the owner. Otherwise it will be considered as a theft.
The Supreme Court of Russia confirmed that when you pick up someone’s property in a public place - it is a theft, as Russian Newspaper reports (Federal release #192 (7358)). The habit to take anything that is not nailed down played a dirty trick with Karelia citizen: she picked up someone’s mobile phone that she found in a hospital hall.Situation is trivial, but it raises an important question – how to distinguish a theft from the finding?
In a while, a phone owner remembered about the phone and came back, but the device has vanished. Phone that costed more than 20.000 RUB transferred to the hands of the mentioned Karelia citizen. Later, the woman’s advocate tried to prove that the occurred situation is the owner’s fault, as he left his belongings unattended, and thus, the phone was found, not stolen. She didn’t put her hand in someone’s pocket and hasn’t used the phone – she handed it over when she received the corresponding request.Do they have to punish for this?
Lower-level court sentenced the woman for theft to 100 hours of mandatory public works. The advocate addressed the Supreme Court trying to appeal the decision, but Judicial panel of Russian Supreme Court accepted the sentence as fully rightful.The property that was left unattended in a public place doesn’t become nobody’s property. When you pake it – it’s a theft.
As Russian Newspaper reports, the Supreme Court stated in its decision the following information: victim’s phone was not lost but left with other victim’s property in hospital, in a place that is common for the victim. Moreover, the owner tried to call his phone after he realized the fact of loss. At the same time, according to the convict’s statement, it is obvious that she understood that the phone had an owner, but she hasn’t answered the phone and even got rid of the SIM card later.
Sadly, the “finders – keepers” idea is common even for people that see themselves as respectable and lawful citizens. They think that theft – it is when you put your hand in someone’s pocket or get into someone’s house. On the contrary, many people think that it is not a theft to take forgotten things from the bench or shopping cart. It is a found thing, and nobody goes to jail for finding things, they say.
But the Courts look at it in another, more strict way. A thing that is forgotten in a public place doesn’t loose its owner. For example, if you left your purse at the airport and some person took it, he/she is a thief – without any doubt.
“The Court’s approach to definitions of theft and finding is worked out clear enough, - explained spokesperson of Lawyers association, Valeriya Aver, to Russian Newspaper, - Ownership in a juridical sense has a wider definition than that just holding or using an object. That’s why the thing still belongs to its owner, even if it has been accidentally left somewhere.” According to her words, belongings that were left by their owners in specific places (railway station, airport, etc) are still regarded as property of the owners that they belong to. Left property is located in a place that the owner is familiar with and where he can come back. It means that when a person forgets the belongings in a taxi and a driver or another passenger takes them – it is a theft.
“Only a lost thing (or a finding) involves no criminal liability, - says Valeria Aver. – Lost thing has two specific features in juridical perspective. The first is that the object is located in the place that is unknown for the owner. The second is that it has no identification features. That’s why a knife or a kettle found in the woods will be identified as finding. But when you find a car on the village road, it can’t be identified as a lost object. The car has identification features – so its owner can be easily identified. The owner left it here for the unknown reason, but he didn’t loose it. Nobody can claim this car – it will be interpreted as theft.” Moreover, even if this thing will be regarded as found object, an honest person has to do everything to find its owner. According to Article 227-229 of the Russian Federation Сode, the person who found the property must inform its owner as soon as possible. If the owner can’t be identified, the finder must inform the police or local government.
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