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Honestly, this is really scary. Personally, I would be unable to take a [2x my bi-weekly salary] hit to my account and that would result in a pretty negative balance. I think I recently saw an article about a bank depositing too much money into an account and the account owner spent it then got arrested. It just seems like the people in charge of how we get/hold our money can screw up with minimal blow back, yet the receiver of the money is almost always the one who draws the short straw. I could be wrong, but it really makes me question the safety of (what little) money I have.

They got arrested because $120k was deposited incorrectly and they spent it. Once the bank called them, they continued spending it.

If the couple had left it in their account and returned it when asked, there would not have been an issue.

If you earn 3k a month, one month you get paid 100k, and you spend 5k on normal things, you aren't going to be arrested.

If you earn 3k a month, one month you get paid 100k, and you spend 95k on stuff you don't normally buy, you are going to be arrested.

If you pick up 20 centrs from the floor and spend it, you won't be arrested.

If you find $50k in a bag and spend it, you will be.

I'm pretty sure if you find a bag of money on public property, you're under no obligation to actually return it.

This is not correct. If you find a bag of money (or, much more common: a wallet) and you can identify the owner you are obligated to return it. Not doing so is a crime. As it should be.

California Civil Code section 2080.1 for example

"the person saving or finding the property shall, if the property is of the value of one hundred dollars ($100) or more, within a reasonable time turn the property over to the police department of the city"


I'm sure that'll make for some great "well we can't get them on anything else" prosecutions in a few decades as inflation works its magic. Hard coding dollar amounts into law is beyond stupid. At least it's a civil infraction so you should only get a fine in most cases. (I'm making the charitable assumption that having the amount decrease over time was not intended).

Hardcoding dollar amounts into law isn't so bad because future laws can update them. For example, a future law might say "All dollar amounts put into law more than 10 years ago are hereby doubled".

The UK has a similar system for fines. Laws are written that if a particular offence occurs, a "Band A fine shall apply", and a separate bit of regulation says what each band of fine or punishment entails.

>Hardcoding dollar amounts into law isn't so bad because future laws can update them.

Sure, but we all know that never happens until a sufficient number of easy to feel sorry for people get screwed real hard. Those people are getting needlessly screwed because the legislators were lazy. For example, most states have felony charges as an option for vandalism over a certain dollar amount, in some states these dollar amounts are low. This results in teenagers getting threatened with felonies (and the charges inevitably stick sometimes) because cleaning up their mess cost a few hundred bucks. That is a level of draconian-ness that is not ok in a free society.

"Well, if we can't get them on anything else, we'll get them on theft" seems OK to me.

Writing catch-all laws especially ones that require law abiding people to go out of their way in order to follow them seems pretty darn dystopian but I see how one could turn a blind eye to it if it's used for something they want.

How do you have to "go out of your way" to follow a law which says "don't take stuff you don't own"?

Read the cited law. It says you are obligated to report anything you find over $100 to the police. If a bartender finds a wallet with $150 in it, sticks it behind the bar and doesn't report it and the patron comes back alleging it had $200 in it he/she could get screwed. I'm sure you could come up with other examples. The point is that using a specific dollar amount is stupid. Give it some time and $100 will be a lot more like $50. Sure, the law can be changed if the relative value gets too low but there will never be any will to do it unless a real sob story comes along because people don't find property that the owner subsequently wants back all that often.

Bartender could simply leave it alone

A New York police agency has or had the obnoxious practice of leaving bait wallets on subway platforms, and arresting anyone who picks one up and walks past an officer without returning it.

Does that apply to any property that isn't yours?

That's way too broad of a question. They can try and prosecute you for anything. Whether it succeeds depends heavily on the specific circumstances.

The broadness is more in the specific laws in your jurisdiction. However ask yourself if you think these situations are different:

If you find $10k in cash in a bag

If you find a $10k car parked on the street

If you find the latest iphone sitting on a table

Specific laws aside, the pattern of facts still matters a lot.

I get what you're getting at but I'm saying that there are plenty of details that matter regardless of ease of proof that the object isn't yours or whether or not it's foreseeable have been left there under "reasonable" circumstances

Cars and phones are trivially easy to track back to their owner, with cash possession is basically ownership. Cars get parked places, phones get left places, cash does not get left lying around and if you leave cash somewhere you basically forfeit ownership of it since that's the cultural norm since ownership can't be proven.

The specific facts and details matter very much. Time and attempts to find the property by the owner are particularly important. There's a very big difference between leaving your phone at a bar and leaving your phone at a bar for a week, in the latter case the bartender has a nice new phone they can use.

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