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Should Found Money Be Considered Theft?

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Early in July, motorists traveling along Interstate 285 in Dunwoody, Georgia were treated to treasure. The doors of an armored car swung open, dispensing at least $175,000 along the roadway.

Drivers were confused at first, thinking they were in some kind of strange leaf storm. Upon realizing what was actually falling around them, drivers stopped their vehicles and got out, scooping up as many bills as possible while they could. This can be seen in a video that was taken at the time of the incident. Now, those same individuals are being told that if they do not return the cash, they could face charges of theft. In some cases, those could be felony charges.

“The threat is a little aggressive,” says Justin Spizman of Hawkins Spizman Fortas. “If someone found ten dollars on the street and kept it, it is unlikely that they would be accused of theft. Although technically this could be considered theft under Georgia law, it should not be. ”

While one would likely not think they were committing a crime by picking up money off the street, Georgia’s statutes do in fact, prohibit it. At the very least, an individual must first try to find the rightful owner of the property. When Dunwoody Police issued a statement on Facebook, telling people that they were to return the money to the department, this made it fairly easy for anyone that found the money to give it back. That could further an argument for theft charges, under Georgia law.

If they do not, they could face felony charges if they took more than $1,500. The police have stated they are going to review the video that was posted to try and identify license plate numbers at the scene. However, there is some doubt as to whether or not the video will be clear enough to depict any specific letters or numbers.

The need to review that video may also be unnecessary. Since posting its message on social media, at least $4,400 has been returned to the police department. They are hoping more people will come forward to return any cash that was taken.

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