Illinois Theft of Lost or Mislaid Property

The Law – 720 ILCS 5/16-2

A person commits Theft of Lost or Mislaid Property when he or she obtains control over the property and:

  1. Knows or learns the identity of the owner or knows, or is aware of, or learns of a reasonable method of identifying the owner, and

  2. Fails to take reasonable measures to restore the property to the owner, and

  3. Intends to deprive the owner permanently of the use or benefit of the property.

Although many may not be aware, finding an item on the street or somewhere else does not necessarily transfer possession of said item to the finder. In fact, the finder of the item can be prosecuted under the Theft of Lost or Mislaid Property law.

Lost property entails finding an item where it would be unreasonable to find it. For example, finding a wallet filled with identification of the owner, cash and credit cards in a trash can would be a circumstance where the finder found “lost property.” In contrast, finding an item where it would be reasonable for it to be found would be considered “mislaid property.” An example of this would be finding the wallet described above on a fast food counter.

Regardless of how the item was found, a person can be charged and convicted of theft if the elements above are met. If the aforementioned wallet was located by an individual, the individual would be able locate the wallet owner by examining the identification in the wallet. If the finder fails to contact the wallet owner and intends to keep the wallet and its contents permanently, the individual can be found guilty of Theft of Lost or Mislaid Property.

In 2002, the Theft of Lost or Mislaid Property was simply a petty offense punishable by a fine only. However, as of 2014, the offense is at a minimum a Class B Misdemeanor and at a maximum a Class 4 Felony, depending on the value of the item. One possible reason for this increased punishment is that the possession of expensive cell phones and other electronic devices are common and their theft and re-sale are quite prevalent.

The Sentence

Value of Property


Maximum Jail Term

Maximum Fine

Less than $500

Class B Misdemeanor

Up to 180 days in jail

Up to $1,500

More than $500 but less than $10,000

Class A Misdemeanor

Up to 364 days in jail

Up to $2,500

More than $10,000

Class 4 Felony

1 to 3 years in prison

Up to $25,000


Probation Possible? Yes

Supervision Possible? Yes

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James A. Payonk, Jr.

~ Attorney at Law ~

10705 W 159th St.
Orland Park, Illinois 60467

(708) 633-6005