The tech world reeled last week when Gizmodo, a technology site, posted photos of the newest, unreleased iPhone, unheard of until that point. Reports suggest the iPhone wasn’t going to be released until later this year and questions are circulating if Gizmodo or the person who found the phone will face criminal charges.
The story goes that a 21 year old Redwood City man found the prototype in a local bar. His attorney claims he tried to return it to the company unsuccessfully. When that didn’t work, he allegedly sold it to Gizmodo for $5,000.
The phone in question has since been returned to Apple following a raid on the Gizmodo editor’s house by the special police force dubbed REACT. Interestingly, according to AOL News, Apple is on the steering committee of REACT. They are alleged to have left the home with four personal computers.
With all the hoopla surrounding the phone, this report from PC Mag plainly asks “Is it a theft?”
Theft statutes include much more than walking out of a store with something that doesn’t belong to you. Theft of loss or mislaid property is written in to the laws of most states and is there for situations just like this.
The law states that if an object whose value is estimated to be more than $100 is found, the finder must do everything reasonably possible to return it. If the item cannot be returned or the rightful owner cannot be determined, the finder is required to turn the found item over to law enforcement. So there may be at least plausible case for a theft charge here.
Purchasing an item that a reasonable person should know to have been stolen is also a crime. For this reason, both the 21 year older finder of the iPhone prototype and the editor at Gizmodo may be facing criminal charges. This doesn’t even touch the potential that intellectual property violations may have occurred if data was taken from the iPhone.
More than likely, if you are facing theft charges, they won’t get the publicity that this case has received. However, the potential for your charges to dramatically impact your life are great.
If you are facing charges of theft in California, contact us for a criminal defense legal consultation.