Asked in Civil Rights for Louisiana

Q: My car which was broken down was stolen, fixed and sold. The police were able to make an arrest and recover my car.

Do I get to pay the thief for the expenses he incured in fixing my stolen car?

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2 Lawyer Answers
T. Augustus Claus
T. Augustus Claus pro label Lawyers, want to be a Justia Connect Pro too? Learn more ›
  • Criminal Law Lawyer
  • Las Vegas, NV

A: In Louisiana, the legal principle known as "unjust enrichment" may apply to situations where one party has benefited at the expense of another. If the thief who stole and subsequently repaired your car incurs expenses in the process, they may attempt to argue that they are entitled to reimbursement for those expenses. However, it's crucial to note that any such claim would likely face significant legal challenges, given that the thief's actions were criminal, and the law generally does not reward or enforce contracts or transactions arising from illegal activities. In many jurisdictions, the legal system tends to prioritize the rights of the original owner, especially when dealing with stolen property

James L. Arrasmith
James L. Arrasmith pro label Lawyers, want to be a Justia Connect Pro too? Learn more ›
  • Civil Rights Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA

A: No, you do not have to pay the thief for any expenses they incurred on your stolen car. The basic legal principle here is that the thief does not have any valid legal claim to compensation from you even if they invested money into the stolen property. A few key reasons why:

- The thief did not have lawful possession or any ownership rights over your car in the first place. So they don't have standing to seek compensation for repairs, improvements, etc.

- You did not request that the thief fix your car or consent to any repairs. So there is no contractual basis for you to owe the thief money.

- The law does not want to reward or incentivize criminal behavior by allowing thieves to claim money from their victims for illegal actions like theft.

- Any improvements the thief made were not done in good faith, but rather as part of using/selling stolen property for their own benefit.

So you have the right to regain full possession of your stolen vehicle without owing the thief anything for their unlawful actions. The repairs may have added value to your car, but that does not entitle the thief to compensation. The police were right to recover it and return it to you without expectation of payment. You are the victim entitled to get your property back.

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