If you find abandoned or lost cash in New York State, can you keep it? If you found the bag of money, could you decide to keep it, rather than turn it over to the police? I mean, they do say 'finders, keepers,' right? Well, the law in New York is very clear about what you need to do if you find lost cash. If it's more than 20 bucks, it's illegal to keep it.

Photo by @alexandermilson Unsplash
Photo by @alexandermilson Unsplash

Can You Legally Keep Any Lost Money You Find In New York State?

New York Consolidated Laws, Personal Property Law - PEP § 252 addresses how a person should handle finding lost property. The law states,

Any person who finds lost property of the value of twenty dollars or more or comes into possession of property of the value of twenty dollars or more with the knowledge that it is lost property or found property shall, within ten days after the finding or acquisition of possession thereof, either return it to the owner or report such finding or acquisition of possession and deposit such property in a police station or police headquarters of the city where the finding occurred or possession was acquired, but if the finding occurred or possession was acquired in buildings or on grounds or premises under the control and supervision of the commissioner of general services as described in article two of the public buildings law, then the property may also be deposited in a station of the capital buildings police.

The bottom line is, by law, you must return the money to the owner. If the owner is not known, it must be turned in to the police within 10 days of finding it. If you find any lost items outside of a city, you can turn it to the state police, sheriff, or the state park police.

You can also legally turn the money over to the owner of the property where it was found - like a 'lost and found' office or security office. If you decide that you aren't going to return the lost item, you could be charged with a misdemeanor,

any person who shall refuse or wilfully neglect to comply with the provisions of subdivision one or subdivision two of this section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction thereof shall be punished by a fine of not more than one hundred dollars or imprisonment not exceeding six months or both.

Keeping lost money without going through the proper channels could cost you in New York State. Once the waiting period has passed, if the rightful owner of the property has not been located, the finder may be entitled to the property,

If at the end of the period specified in subdivision seven of
section two hundred fifty-three of this chapter the owner has not claimed the property, it shall be delivered to the finder, or person entitled to assert the rights of the finder as provided in section two hundred fifty-six of this chapter, upon his demand therefor, and upon payment of all reasonable expenses incurred in connection therewith.


The waiting periods are as follows:

- Less than $100 - three months

- $100 - $499 - six months

- $500 to $4,999 - one year

- $5,000 or more - three years

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