If You Found a Million Dollars, Could You Legally Keep It?

A Virginia family found bags containing nearly one million dollars cash in the middle of the road and turned it in to their local Sheriff’s department. Were they legally required to do so? Attorney Ben Barry of Martin, Harding and Mazzotti is on the radio with Joe Vega of WIZN 106.7 to help explain the issue. Please give it a listen or read the transcript below.

Joe: 106.7 WIZN and “Twisted Sister. We’re not gonna take it.” Heard the Rolling Stones before that. Joe Vega taking you through your Wednesday rocket ride home. Got my friend Ben Barry from Martin Harding & Mazzotti, on the phone right now. Hello, Ben.

Ben: Hello, Joe.

Joe: So, this is… you’re gonna love this story, dude. These are the craziest people in the world. It’s a family in Virginia. They were out for a ride one day and they ran over a garbage bag. And so they pulled over because they’re good Samaritans. And they decided, well, let’s grab this garbage bag off the road. And there actually were two of them, and they throw them in the back of their truck and then later find that those bags were filled with around $1 million. And they turned it in.

Ben: Wow.

Joe: Yeah, they turned in a $1 million in cash that they found lying on the side of the road and I’m just beside myself because there’s no way I’m doing that.

Ben: And you’d like a million dollars but …

Joe: It’s like a fantasy, though that everyone’s had in their life is, “Wow, I just found a $1 million on the side of the road. What am I going to buy now?”

Ben: Well, I think if this family had gone out and made some major purchases, it would have been a mistake. Most states have lost and found laws. And generally speaking, if you find something, you have to turn it in, usually to the police. And if somebody comes to claim that item, then it goes back to its original owner or the person who owns title to that. However, in a circumstance where you find something and you turn it in, you can make a claim to that property after a certain period of time. And so each state is different, Vermont and New York both have laws like that, where if you found a $1 million, you should turn it into the police and then wait a period of time and make a claim that since nobody else claimed it, or nobody else is missing it that it should be yours. It’s curious that the money that they found was in garbage bags. My understanding is that in this particular circumstance, the money belonged to a banking institution and there is an entity or a business that has claimed ownership of that money.

Joe: Oh, is that right? So someone’s actually claimed that money?

Ben: Yeah, I believe so. I think that there were either markings on the bands that held the money together that indicated who was the rightful owner. And so that money will go to that particular entity. There may be some investigation as to how the money ended up in the middle of the road.

Joe: In the garbage bag.

Ben: So that will be interesting how that plays out.

Joe: So is this family entitled to any of the money?

Ben: They’re not.

Joe: They’re not?

Ben: There is no obligation on the party who lost that item to pay for the services of the people who found it.

Joe: Well, I gotta tell you, Ben, if I find a $1 million in cash…

Ben: Call me.

Joe: Right. I will do so. Ben Barry for Martin, Harding & Mazzotti. Thanks, Ben.

Ben: Thanks, Joe. Good talking to you.

Joe: If you find a $1 million in cash, make sure you call Ben at 1800LAW1010 or go online to 1800law1010.com. All right, I’m out of here. Mel Allen’s taken over. He’s got music from Bon Jovi and Pink Floyd next.

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