Legal Question in Technology Law in Washington
I bought a laptop from Craigslist and realized it was stolen a couple days later. I found the original owners' info and contacted him. The guy said he just wanted the files back, so I was going to just send him his files. Later that day I get a call from the police saying I should drop off the laptop st the station, or I could get arrested for possession of stolen property if caught with the laptop. Since I payed for it, do I have to drop it off at the police station, or do I have some kind of leverage to just give back the owner his files and keep the laptop?
2 Answers from Attorneys
No, if the laptop was stolen, you do not own it even if you paid for it. If you are nice, the owner might give you a reward for returning it, but you cannot keep it if the owner wants it back.
Unfortunately, this is the problem with buying stuff off Craigslist. You should provide the police with all the information you have about the person you bought it from.
Your remedy for the money you paid is against the person who sold it to you. As Mr. Whitaker said you should surrender the computer to the police and provide info on the seller. If you have enough information, you may be able to sue the seller. In the alternative, if a prosecutor decides to file a criminal complaint against the seller, you may be able to get an order for restitution of the money you paid.