What is mislaid property?

On Behalf of | Apr 3, 2020 | Firm News

One of the key elements authorities must establish in order to prove that you committed a crime in Atlantic City is intent. Without it, then the presumption must be that whatever actions for you stand accused of, you were operating in good faith while engaged in them. 

The idea of you “accidentally” committing a crime may seem ridiculous to some (as most tend to assume all criminal matters have well-established “black and white” boundaries). Yet coming into possession of mislaid property may be a perfect example of this. 

Defining mislaid property 

The law defines mislaid property as any piece of property was clearly left behind or forgotten (hence the term “mislaid”) by its owner. Typically it has been set aside for use and then forgotten. Examples might be a laptop computer left in a library or a golf club left at a driving range. The situation in which you find the property will usually imply that the property was mislaid; it is what you do with it once you find it that dictates whether or not your actions qualify as criminal. 

Inferring intent 

Section 2C.20-6 of New Jersey’s state statutes says that if you find lost or mislaid property (or are mistakenly delivered the property of another) and you know who the property’s actual owner is, you are guilty of theft if you make no attempt to return it to them. The important point here is that you have to knowingly do this. Say that you find something that you did not know belonged to an acquaintance (and not knowing who the owner is, you chose to keep it). It would be difficult to accuse you of theft given that you had no intent to deprive your acquaintance of the item.