Who owns change thrown into a fountain?

October 23rd, 2013

In Ohio, a woman was arrested for taking $2.87 from a fountain inside a courthouse. Who owns that money?

A western Ohio woman charged with petty theft for allegedly stealing $2.87 from a courthouse fountain says she is jobless and took the change to buy food.

WBNS in Columbus reports the woman pleaded not guilty Wednesday. A police report alleges she stole the change Oct. 7 from the Logan County Courthouse fountain in Bellefontaine, and an officer asked her what she was doing and found change in her pocket.

I think it is safe to say that the money thrown into the fountain was abandoned, not accidentally mislaid (people tend to throw the money in intentionally). Generally, abandoned money is held by the owner of the property to be returned to the original owner. But, here the original owner had no intent to reclaim it. So how owns the change? Between the courthouse and the woman, I suspect the courthouse has the better claim.

In the pleadings, the city is listed as a “victim.” All $2.87 worth of it.

The city is listed as the victim in the case, owning the change in the fountain.  The city’s safety director says officials hope to resolve the case before the November trial.

What a horrible use of public resources to prosecute this poor woman for such a silly crime with almost no harm to anyone. How much will this prosecution cost? The charges should be dismissed immediately.