What Is the Difference Between Burglary, Theft, and Robbery?

What Is the Difference Between Burglary, Theft, and Robbery?

Burglar Breaking Into House

Some reports fail to see the difference between burglary and robbery and end up using them interchangeably. Although it’s understandable — because burglary and robbery are both crimes with theft involved — they mean different things. Generally, the difference revolves around how the criminal steals. Here’s a closer look at each kind of crime.

What Is Burglary?

Although every state has a slightly different definition of burglary, some elements remain constant. Someone would be guilty of burglary if they enter a structure (either residential or commercial) illegally with intentions to commit a felony —such as theft or assault — once inside.

According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program, burglary has three categories:

  1. Forcible entry
  2. Unlawful entry without force
  3. Attempted forcible entry

As such, a criminal does not necessarily have to use force when entering a building to get a burglary conviction. Meanwhile, the FBI also specifies what kind of buildings or structures a burglar would enter, which include:

  • Apartments
  • Barns
  • House trailers
  • Houseboats (if they’re used as permanent dwellings)
  • Offices
  • Railroad cars
  • Stables
  • Vessels

Breaking into automobiles does not constitute burglary because the UCR program does not include them in its definition.

Penalties for Burglary

Burglary itself is a felony — even when a person intends to commit other felonies while burglarizing a building or structure. If other crimes are involved in a burglary, the penalties will reflect accordingly. In general, state laws will look at certain factors to determine the appropriate penalty for a burglar, such as:

  • Intended Crimes: Whether a person entered a building for theft or assault will factor into the penalties that the convicted burglar will face.
  • Weapons: State law will consider if the burglar came into a building while being armed with a weapon.
  • Type of Building: Whether the building that a burglar enters is a commercial or residential structure will factor into their penalties. It will also change if there are other people present in the building at the time of the crime.

Once the state considers all the facts, the convicted burglar will face time in prison and fines.

What Is Robbery?

Theft is not necessary in a burglary case, but it is almost always involved in a robbery case. Like burglary, each state has a unique set of rules for this particular crime. However, some things are constant.

Robbery is a crime where a person directly takes something valuable from another. They take money or property without the victim’s permission to keep for themselves. Moreover, they do so forcefully and intimidatingly.

The state will only convict someone of robbery if they threatened or used violence to take the victim’s valuable items. The FBI’s UCR also includes force, the threat of force, and fear of force in its official definition of robbery.

As such, robbery is a violent crime. Robbers can be armed with a weapon (armed robbery) or rely on their physical strength (strong-arm robbery). Either way, the robber does not actually have to successfully steal something for them to be guilty of robbery.

Penalties for Robbery

Like burglary, robbery is a felony in most states. If it is an armed robbery case where a weapon is involved, defendants face thousands of dollars in fines and years of prison time. If a court determines that the robbery is a more serious crime, the defendant’s sentence can reach decades of time in prison and up to tens of thousands of dollars.

As it appears, the penalties for robbery will depend on the specifics of the case. Usually, the court will factor in the value of the item the robber successfully stole or attempted to steal. For instance, robbing a store for candy is not as heavy as a grand theft where cars or jewelry are involved. Still, the state will determine what constitutes petty or grand theft.

The Difference Between Burglary and Robbery Is How the Robber Steals

Burglary and robbery are felonies that may or may not involve theft, which in itself is another felony. Theft or the intention of theft is not always necessary in a burglary case but is almost always present in a robbery case.

Meanwhile, another difference between them is the use of force. Criminals are guilty of burglary if they enter a building, which they can do so forcefully or not. However, force and fear are key elements in a robbery.

If you need legal assistance in a burglary, theft, or robbery case, feel free to get in touch with our lawyers to review your situation.