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Does anyone know of any case law about someone being found guilty of theft after finding lost property and demanding money to return it? I've heard about it before but can't find it anywhere.

  • Where? There are several hundred jurisdictions in the world that don't treat the issue uniformly. – ohwilleke Feb 24 at 23:52
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Recent cases in Australia

This is a nice summary for Queensland law which is basically a codification of the historical common law position. The crime is 'stealing' and s390 of the Criminal Code 1899 says:

(1) A person who fraudulently takes anything capable of being stolen, or fraudulently converts to the person’s own use or to the use of any other person anything capable of being stolen, is said to steal that thing.

Note that it says nothing about removing it from the owner's possession - whether the thing is in someone's possession or not is irrelevant. To avoid acting fraudulently, a person who finds something must make reasonable efforts (commensurate with the value of the property among other things) to locate the true owner and reunite them with their property

  • Interesting cases. Both are abut simply keeping found property, not holding it for ransom as in the question, not that I suppose that makes a major difference. – David Siegel Feb 25 at 2:00

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