The ‘Theft by Finding’ Law for Lost and Found Items

The ‘Theft by Finding’ Law for Lost and Found Items

AJAR Hospitality

The ‘Theft by Finding’ Law for Lost and Found Items – Hello Ajarian! All items handed in It is possible to staff – or members of the public, guests or customers – who take items found in the venue for their own use, could be guilty of an offense called ‘Theft by finding’.

‘Theft’ involves deliberate intent to permanently deprive the rightful owner of their legal right to their goods.

But please note to check with your Supervisor or local authorities to determine more specifically the ‘theft by finding’ laws as they apply to your country.


Items can only be taken for personal/private use if they have been ‘abandoned’ – that is, if they have been deliberately left with the intention by the owner of relinquishing legal title (or ownership) to the goods.

‘Losing’ an item accidentally does not fall under the definition of abandonment.

To avoid a charge of ‘theft by finding’ the finder is required to take reasonable action to determine or identify and locate the finder. If an item has been handed in to the Lost and Found facility at a venue and the venue has tried to identify/contact the owner, then this requirement may have been fulfilled.

Mislaid property

Property cannot be seen to be ‘abandoned’ if it is simply mislaid/misplaced.

This relates to items placed somewhere by the owner who then forgets to pick the item again when they leave. For example, a guest may leave their handbag/wallet at a POS register or at Reception when paying an account or checking out and forget to pick it up when they depart.

This item is deemed to be neither lost nor abandoned but ‘mislaid’.

Such items must be regarded, for the purposes of the venue/this unit as ‘lost’ and handed in to the Lost and Found facility.


It is possible the person who takes a found item (that is, an item which is either lost or mislaid) as their own may be:

  • Charged by the Police with a crime (theft by finding)
  • Sued by the rightful owner of the item – so as to be reimbursed for the value of the item involved. In addition, the employer may elect to terminate your employment.

To avoid potential legal and employment-related problems, you must always hand in anything you find. At work, hand things in to the Lost and Found facility or your Supervisor. Outside work, hand items in to the Police.

Read also: How to Provide Lost and Found Services

Nurturing You to Grow®

Written by: Alan Hickman

Subject Matter: Provide a Lost and Found Facility

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