The general law on this subject is, that the finder of money or goods if he takes possession of the property, is to use all due means to discover the rightful owner. Failing to find the rightful owner, after taking due means to do so, the finder of the lost articles is entitled to regard them as his own property. Some states prescribe by statute the means to be taken by finders to advertise the property.
Rules Governing Finding of Lost Property
1. The finder of lost property is the owner of it against all the world but the original owner.
Thus, it is held that a stranger who finds lost money in a shop may retain it as against the shop owner; but the contrary has also been held, at least where the money or a purse was left on the counter.
Money left on a desk in a bank, provided for the use of its depositors, is not lost so as to entitle the finder to the same, as against the bank.
An aerolite which buries itself in the ground is regarded as an accretion to the land, and belongs to the owner of the soil on which it falls.
2. The finder is always at liberty to leave untouched what he finds, and cannot be made accountable for any injury thereafter happening to it.
3. The finder may demand from the owner all his expenses necessarily incurred in keeping and preserving the property, and properly advertising and like charges for the owner’s benefit.
4. If a reward be legally offered, specific and certain or capable of being made so by reference to a standard, the finder complying with the terms of the advertisement becomes entitled to such reward, and may sue for it.
5. If the finder of lost goods, or goods which are reasonably supposed by him to have been lost, appropriates them to his own use, really believing when he takes them that the owner cannot be found, it is not larceny; but if he takes them while reasonably certain that the owner can be found and then appropriates them, it is larceny.
Offers of Reward for the return of lost property, or for information leading to the arrest and conviction of offenders, become obligatory as soon as anyone inspired to action by the offer complies with its terms. Where the offer is for information, the whole of which is furnished in fragments by different persons, the reward may be equitably proportioned; and so also as to the recovery of property.