Anonymous asked in Politics & GovernmentLaw & Ethics · 1 month ago

If given a gift, can the giver legally take it back?

A few months ago for my birthday, I was gifted a new phone by my boyfriend, we broke up about a few weeks ago and now he keeps telling me to give the phone back or else he’ll call the cops and sue me. Is this even possible? 

11 Answers

  • 1 month ago

    A gift is a gift and once given cannot be taken back. If he claims it was a loan, he would have to show in court that it was a loan and that both of you understood it was intended to be returned. Even if it ends up being a loan (doubtful), not returning it wouldn't be something the police would get involved with as it would be considered a civil matter.

    If he keeps harassing you about this, then just call his bluff and tell him to report it to the police and to file suit against you in court. Don't waste your time arguing with him as that only plays into his game.

    edit: he's not obligated to continue paying for phone service though.

  • 1 month ago

    Ever watch People's Court or Judge Judy?  People sue each other all the time over 'gifts that weren't gifts'.  He can sue but he won't win unless he has proof that a contract existed between you for you to pay him. Gifts are not returnable. The exception to that is an engagement ring, which is not a gift per se but something given with the expectation of marriage to follow. If the recipient breaks off the engagement, the law generally holds that the giver gets the ring back.

    The police don't get involved in civil matters. If he calls the police and says you stole it, the police might come ask you questions, and if you say it was a gift, then the police will ask him more questions and unless there's video of you going into his home or car or place of business and taking it, they're going to tell him it's a civil matter.

  • Foofa
    Lv 7
    1 month ago

    He can sue you civilly (and probably lose) but the police won't get involved in this. Criminal and civil are two different things. 

  • 1 month ago

    Legally, once a gift has been received it becomes the property of the recipient and the person giving the gift has no legal standing to demand the return of the gift. Ethically, keeping gifts after breaking up implies that you were only in the relationship for the gifts and now that you have the big prize, you don't need him anymore. It is customary to return gifts to show good faith and that you weren't just in the relationship for whatever gifts you could get out of it.

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  • Maxi
    Lv 7
    1 month ago

    If it really was a gift, once given it is no longer the person who purchased and gifted it property.......... it is also a civil offence unless they claim you stole it, so the police will tell your bf that and will not get involved... he will have to prove it is his property that he loned to you for the court to award it back to him.... and suing will also cost him money

  • 1 month ago

    No, he can't take it back.   Now if he can show he owns it and he pays the plan....then he can get it back via a civil action.

  • 1 month ago

    He is bluffing. The police will not get involved, and the court would throw his case out.

    He can however cut your service off if he was paying for it under his plan

  • 1 month ago

    Tell him to drop dead.  In fact.  Text him to that effect, for asking for the phone back when he knows very well that he gave it to you for your birthday, so it does not belong to him anymore.  Shame on him.  The response you receive might be proof that it was a gift, which will hold up in court, but he would be stupid to sue you.  He has no case.  He is just bullying you, hoping you will give it to him out of fear.  You have nothing to worry about.  It belongs to you - free and clear. 

    Source(s): Certified Paralegal, with 25+ years' experience.
  • Yeti
    Lv 7
    1 month ago

    Yes, it's possible he'll call the cops and try to sue you. But...

    The cops almost certainly will say it's a civil matter, not criminal. Then the question is what happens if he tries to sue you.

    Cell phones can be tricky. For example, if the phone is on some plan and he's paying it off still, it wasn't really his phone to "give." The actual gift may have been more than he was paying for your cell phone plan while you stayed with him. It's not uncommon some people use "gift" cell phones like this to try and keep someone in a relationship. So... you may really need to give it back. He cannot "give" you what he does not fully own himself.

    Even if the phone wasn't tied to a plan, he may be able to show you didn't accept the phone in good faith. For example, if you knew you were going to break up with him but still accepted an expensive gift, it can appear "unjust" that you still accepted the gift. He could argue the gift was conditional -- for example, that it was implied you'd still be in a relationship for at least another year, or something similar. 

    Anyway... it's not as simple as you present it -- i.e., it's not just someone trying to "take back a gift." And that goes triple because it's a cell phone, because those can be unusual with how they work. But you haven't provided all the information that might impact how a court would view it if he really does sue.

    But especially if it is on a plan and still being paid off... you're going to need to give it back. And he really may be able to report it as stolen on top of things if you do not.

  • Anonymous
    1 month ago

    There has never been a single case in which a gift given had ever resulted in being forced to return said gift.

    If I gift someone a car, I can't come back next week and demand they give it back.  A gift has a legal definition, meaning once it's given and leaves the hands of one person into the hands of another - that is no longer the property of the person who gave it.

    Like I said - not once has a claim against this ever been successful - cops or otherwise. 

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