Editor's note: New editions of the "Ask the Trooper" column are on hiatus by the Minnesota State Patrol. Following is a previous column from the Pioneer Journal archives.
Question: My father found a wallet at a big retail store while on vacation and was concerned about handing it off to the staff there, instead deciding to contact the owner directly. He was eventually pulled over by a local police officer, with the wallet in hand, and was told he could be brought up on theft charges.
What should he have done? His intent was to ensure that the staff at the store wasn't going to pocket any cash from the wallet before putting it in their safe, but that's not how the police perceived it.
Answer: There are two other options that could have been done besides turning the wallet in to store staff: He could have turned it over to a supervisor at the store where it was found, or he could have reported it to the local police or sheriff's department where it was found.
What could have happened in this situation is that the wallet may have been stolen and discarded where your father found it and it was considered stolen property. By explaining how and where the wallet was found would clear him as a suspect of possessing stolen property. If further evidence is needed, law enforcement could obtain video footage from the store and that would support his statement.
We have had wallets, purses and property that were found on state highways or freeways that were turned in to a trooper or a state patrol office staff employee. We would go through the wallet or purse in an attempt to find some form of identification that can be used to contact that person.
If you ever lose a wallet or purse that contains credit cards and a driver's license, contact your credit card companies as soon as you can and report the cards as missing so they can't be used to purchase anything. Contact your state's department of vehicle services and report that your driver's license is missing and to obtain a duplicate license.
If the wallet or purse is stolen, report it to your local law enforcement agency, where a report will be generated and the items can be returned to you if found.