In December of 2012, Fred Johnson drove to a shopping mall, parked in the parking lot, and went in to make purchases. When he came out he noticed an unattended shopping cart containing a purse and a DVD player in a shopping bag. Fred put the purse and bag in his car and drove off. Unbeknownst to him, the shopping cart and its contents were components of a police sting targeting parking lot thieves, and Fred was stopped by the police within a few blocks of the mall. When the police accused him of stealing the contents of the shopping cart, he denied doing so. He said that when he got home he intended to look through the purse to see if he could find the ID of the owner so that he could contact her about finding her belongings, and that it was never his intent to keep the items.
He said that when he was a child this was how his mother had handled a similar incident, resulting in the return of the property to its rightful owner. Therefore, he said, rather than intending to steal the property he actually intended to preserve it for the true owner and to protect it against thieves. The police didn’t believe Fred, and charged him with misdemeanor theft of lost or mislaid property. Using the concepts from our materials on personal property, do you think that Fred can be found guilty of this charge?