Bait bricks are pallets of bricks (allegedly) left near protest areas in an effort to encourage violence. I've seen people joke about just taking the bricks.

If somebody saw a pallet of what they genuinely believed to be bait bricks and took one (with no intention of throwing it of course), would this be considered theft, or are the bricks considered to be abandoned and therefore free to take?

2 Answers 2


Check your local law. In Washington, the chapter RCW 63.21 says what you are supposed to do. The first part of the law has apparently been satisfieds:

Any person who finds property that is not unlawful to possess, the owner of which is unknown, and who wishes to claim the found property

Then you need to get a signed appraisal stating current market value from a qualified person engaged in buying or selling the items, or by a district court judge (I have no idea where district court judges get their qualifications to appraise bricks), then within 7 days, report this to the cief LEO where the stuff was found (and surrender it, if requested). You also have to serve written notice upon that officer stating your to claim the property. The burden now shifts to the government, which must publish notices in a local newspaper at least weakly, for 2 weeks. The notice might be publishable in a no-cost venue, in case the publication cost is greater than the value of the stuff. If the owner appears and establishes ownership, that's the end of the finder's potential interest. If the owner does not show up, the property will be released to the finder once he has paid the government's publishing expenses plus $10, but if the goods are appraised at less than publishing cost, there is no fee. As a finder, you have 30 days after that 60 days to pay required costs, otherwise it goes to the government. There are some exceptions, things not subject to finders-keepers (crab pots, secured vessels, motor vehicles, unclaimed property in the hands of a bailee).

If you do not comply with these requirements, you forfeit any right to the property and you are liable to the property owner for the value of the bricks. Under the definition of theft, you have a defense that

The property or service was appropriated openly and avowedly under a claim of title made in good faith, even though the claim be untenable

since you presumably intend to claim ownership of the bricks under the lost property statute.

  • 1
    There is lost property and there is abandoned property.
    – gnasher729
    Jun 4, 2020 at 8:55

The bricks are abandoned, well, if they are abandoned. If the owner left them there and doesn’t want them anymore. In your situation you really can’t know if they are abandoned. It is legal to take them if they are abandoned, but since you cannot know they are, there is a substantial risk for you. Taking my property because you wrongly believe it is abandoned is theft.

Now if someone left bricks with the intent that people should take them and use them to smash shop windows - in that case they intended you to take one, and they’ll have a hard time convincing a court that you did something wrong by not using it to smash anything. But again, how do you know that is the situation?

  • This answer implies that I'm expected to be omniscient when it comes to the intent of others. Jun 4, 2020 at 20:58
  • You don't need to be omniscient, just walk on by without taking something that doesn't belong to you. Since you are the one using your judgment to decide an item is abandoned, you should bear the burden of any negative outcome. Mar 27, 2023 at 18:53

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