Start of main content

Can I go to jail if I keep a lost wallet?

| News | Corporate Compliance

Rocío Gil talks in Expansión jurídico about the obligation to take the effects found to the corresponding lost property office.

Expansión |

Who hasn't dreamt of meeting by chance a wad of notes in the middle of the street or a lottery ticket that is later rewarded with a millionaire sum? Surely almost no one can hide this desire, but, like a milkmaid's tale, it does not have a happy ending.

The Penal Code leaves no room for doubt and, according to its article 254, 'whoever appropriates another person's personal property' will be punished and it is not worth saying that it was lost because Rocío Gil, senior associate of Andersen Tax & Legal, remembers that the law understands that 'nobody voluntarily abandons an important sum of money or an object of value', and if we find them by chance, 'we must assume that they have been lost and it is logical to deduce that their owner wishes to recover them'.

Therefore, there is no doubt that, in order to avoid any legal problem, any item of value found should be returned, either to the corresponding lost property office or to the manager of a shop, if the finding has taken place in a private location. However, the lawyer of Andersen Tax & Legal warns that, if the amount found was greater than 100,000 euros, before taking it to one of these offices, it is necessary to warn the Police to avoid a possible administrative sanction in case of being caught carrying such a large booty. This is due to the fact that the Law for the Prevention of Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism establishes the obligation to declare movements of capital greater than this amount within our country before the Provincial Customs and Excise Departments or in the Customs Administrations of the Tax Agency,' she explains.

Failure to return the object found could result in conviction for a crime of misappropriation under the Criminal Code, which provides for a fine of three to six months, in addition to the obligation to return the amount to which the value of the find amounts.

If the amount were less than 400 euros, we would incur a misappropriation misdemeanour, punishable by a fine of up to two months.

Thus, the milkmaid story could only legally become a reality after two years. If there is no claim, the person who finds the object and deposits it in an office could keep it. Rocío Gil reminds us that, if the owner finally appears and claims it, 10% of the value of the object could be requested, and if it exceeds 12 euros, 5% of that value, in accordance with what is established in article 616 of the Civil Code.

What to do with the found object

Although sometimes the temptation can be great, keeping money or any object that we find on the street can lead to legal problems. The Civil Code is clear and, as Rocío Gil, senior associate of Andersen Tax & Legal, explains, imposes the obligation to take the found effects to the corresponding lost and found office:

  • If the discovery has taken place in a bus or subway, the companies that operate these means have their own offices.
  • If it has taken place on a public thoroughfare, go to the municipal office.
  • In a private area, such as a gym or restaurant, it is advisable to contact the owners or those responsible for the premises so that they can try to locate the owner.

End of main content