If a criminal gives you money that isn't stolen, can you keep it?

Quite a few movies have a scene where a criminal, on the run from the law, forcibly stops somebody driving a car or riding a bike, gets them to hand over their method of transportation, and then drive off with it leaving the hapless victim laying on the ground completely bewildered at what had just happened. Until of course the criminal having a brief moment of sympathy grabs a wad of bills from his pocket and throws them at the man. If the bike or car was a piece of junk and it just happened to be a wad of $100’s the man whose vehicle was stolen might actually be ahead in this whole game.

So basically, if a criminal gives you money that isn’t stolen (so it’s not cash he just grabbed from a bank robbery) and gives it to you, are you allowed to keep the money by pretending it was a legitimate transaction? Or would the money get confiscated if you contacted the police because in their eyes all money that comes from a criminal is dirty?

Similarly, if a criminal hid in your home at gunpoint, but the moment he left he gave you a bunch of money as thanks, would that also be confiscated?

Cash is hard to identify. If some low-life steals your wallet with a bunch of hundreds in it, and was later caught doing the same to someone else; if he was carrying thousands, it’s unlikely that you could identify the actual notes that you had stolen.

So if that thief used some of the money before he was caught, the problem becomes even harder and I suspect that in most jurisdictions, the law would side with the recipient, provided that he wasn’t complicit in the theft.

Note that in the case of a car, it almost certainly couldn’t have been a valid sales transaction. Pretty much everywhere, some detailed paperwork is required by law, including such things as odometer certification and title transfer.

I suppose you could argue that it was actually a short-term rental.

Also, when the bad person uses the car as part of a bank heist the following week, it’ll still be licensed in your name. That can’t be good.

I see two problems here. On one extreme, if we were to flatly declare that no financial transactions with a criminal are legal, then we reach the ridiculous conclusion that anyone who breaks the law cannot legally purchase food or even pay their rent/mortgage. So, it must be true that SOME financial transactions with criminals are legal. On the other hand, imagine a bank robber who steals two thousand dollars and then tries to spend some of it at a grocery store. An hour later, the FBI comes around and identifies a twenty by its serial number and says “Sorry, this bill came from a bank robbery. We are confiscating it.” I’m not an expert here, but I imagine that the FBI would then reimburse the grocery store $20 for the bill they took. Surely they can’t insist that the grocery store’s only recourse is to sue the bank robber for $20 or force him to return the food he bought. But what if there’s no way to identify the bills? Suppose the bank has no record of the serial numbers. If the robber had $3 before the robbery, he has $2,003 after. If it’s legal for him to spend the $3 he had previously, what difference does it make if the actual bill he puts into a vending machine was one of the three or came from the two thousand? What I’m saying is, this is like having a designated non-smoking table in a restaurant. It’s about as pointless as designating a “no peeing” corner in a swimming pool. Again, we must admit that some financial transactions with criminals are legal and perhaps ALL such transactions are legal.

I see two exceptions here. First, if the transaction would have been illegal anyway, regardless of who made the transaction. For example, it’s illegal to pay a street walker for sex, regardless of whether the john is a bank robber or not. Another example would be stealing a bicycle and then dropping $100 on the ground; it’s illegal because the seller did not consent. Second (as bob++ pointed out), if the transaction constitutes aiding and abetting or conspiracy, making the recipient an accomplice to the robbery. For example, if the robber described above spends $3 on a roll of duct tape, explicitly telling the store clerk that the reason he needs the tape is to hide the stolen money from the bank robbery, that could be considered an illegal transaction, even if the robbery hasn’t occurred yet.

One way to look at it is that all financial transactions are contracts, either written or verbal or implied. Any contract that requires either party to break the law in order to fulfill the contract is in itself illegal. And a contract is only valid if all parties agree and consent to the contract.

So the premise is that the guy taking the car/bike is really a decent person with a good excuse, but can’t take the time to articulate that and plead for assistance and instead resorts to force to acquire said vehicle, but feels guilty about it and drops some (possibly a lot of) cash.

You, as owner of the vehicle, pick up said cash, and then call the police to report a theft. During your statement to the cops, you mention the cash, and are wondering if the police will confiscate said cash on the basis that it came to you during a theft.

I don’t think so. If they have no basis to think the cash was stolen money, if they can’t tie it to theft of some kind, then it’s his money that he freely gave you.

Of course that assumes you mention the cash at all.

But what if the guy was racing to the hospital to be there for his pregnant wife and the delivery? And so your vehicle is only temporarily borrowed, and, in fact, is found and returned by said police? I don’t think the police are going to come after the cash. The guy may try to use it as his defense - it wasn’t a theft, but a short-term rental. However, it wasn’t a contract because you didn’t agree to it. Except your accepting of the cash might be seen as an act on your part of agreeing to the contract. It might be enough to get him off the charges.

The problem is money is fungible. That means it is interchangeable. If I get $50 from a job and $50 from robbing someone, then pay my $20 bill at a restaurant, was that money from the legal job or from the theft? Even if I used bills from the theft, it still won’t be confiscated by the cops unless the specific bills are marked for some reason (and that’s part of how they tie me to the theft).

I’m not sure what happens if I pay $75 dollars to someone before I’m caught. On one hand, some of that is definitely stolen money. On the other hand, the recipient of the money wasn’t abetting the crime, they were just legally getting paid for services rendered. Again, without having the specific bills identified in some manner and being used to show chain of possession, they probably won’t try to confiscate anything from the guy I paid. If some money is on me when they arrest me, that might be taken as the remains of the stolen money. But they’re not going to try to collect the bus fare, dinner bill, etc that I paid for before I got nabbed.

You really think the FBI reimburses for money they confiscate? :dubious:

Why can’t they? “You were the victim of a crime, too - theft of your goods/services, because the money was ours, not his. Tough luck.”

Under the civil forfeiture rules, can’t they take any or all of your money without having any basis to think the cash was stolen money and then shift the burden to you to prove it wasn’t?

Not only could the powers that be take the money, they could also prosecute you for it. Even if you never saw a crime take place. As this guy discovered:

when the sheriffs department was relocated to the main street of our town near all the main banks the bank of America robbed on black Friday
Well said robber didn’t know the cops were 5 minutes max from the bank (on the corner of the street all he had to do was go about 2k feet down and hed of seen the station ….) so figuring hed get a lesser sentence if he didn’t have the money he poured about 64 grand in a salvation army kettle

the bank insurance and government wanted the money back the salvation army In the most Christianly was possible told them to stuff it ….a quick court hearing and the SA won saying theres no legal justification for takebacks from a charity ……. the bell ringer won several awards for public service that year ………………

The guy was flirting with danger from the beginning, running a business of questionable legitimacy and should have known the work he did for the drug runners could get him in trouble, yet he continued working for them. Not the smartest thing in the world.

For some reason I’m reminded of this old joke:

Two guys, Roger and Sam, were walking along the street when they were suddenly accosted by a mugger. “Give me everything,” the mugger says to them. Roger and Sam both pull all of their money out of their wallets to give to the mugger, but Roger gives some to his friend first, and says, “Sam, here’s that fifty bucks I owe you.”