“Salvage” does not mean “Finders Keepers”

Last month I left a lot of readers hanging when I mentioned that the intricacies of the Law of Salvage were brought home to me during my tenure as an Assistant Attorney General.  A local denizen of the community (no doubt one of the “flotsam and jetsam of humanity” from last month) had been convicted of stealing a boat and sent off to prison from which he launched an appeal. He represented himself and wrote a brief in which he argued the State of Florida could not prosecute him because by taking the boat he was acting under the “federal law of salvage.” Since his brief contained the word “boat,” and everybody knew I was a “past commodore,” the case was assigned to me. I quickly headed to our law library to do some research. I learned that “salvage” does not mean “finder’s keepers.” In fact, the Law of Salvage is pretty
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