bailee | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Criminal Law

In the criminal law context, a bailee is a person entrusted with the possession of property belonging to another and is responsible for taking reasonable care and returning it.

In the criminal law context, a bailee is a person who has been entrusted with the possession of property belonging to another person. The property can be any tangible item such as a car, house key, or valuable item, or even intangible property like intellectual property rights. The bailee is expected to exercise reasonable care and diligence in protecting and safeguarding the property and ensuring its safe return to the owner.

The legal relationship between a bailee and the owner of the property is based on a bailment, which is a legal agreement that transfers possession of the property to the bailee for a specific purpose and period of time. The bailment can be created by express or implied agreement or by operation of law, such as when a hotel guest is entrusted with the possession of their personal belongings during their stay.

In criminal law, a bailee can be held liable for various offenses related to the property in their possession. For instance, a bailee can be charged with a crime if they fail to take reasonable care of the property or if they intentionally or recklessly damage or destroy it. A bailee can also be charged with a crime if they retain the property beyond the agreed-upon period of time or if they use the property for their own benefit without the owner’s consent.

The bailee’s duty of care and diligence requires them to take all necessary steps to protect the property from damage or loss, such as by storing it in a secure location or maintaining it in good condition. The bailee is also required to return the property to the owner when the bailment terminates or when the owner requests its return.

In addition to their legal obligations, a bailee may also have contractual obligations under the terms of the bailment agreement. For example, a bailee who is entrusted with a car for repair may be contractually obligated to perform the repairs within a certain time frame or to return the car in the same condition as when it was received.

[ Glossary ]

Last Modified: 05/04/2023

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