What Is The Difference Between Robbery vs Burglary?

Posted on by Dawna M. Roberts in LawSeptember 08, 2021
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Many people confuse the two words robbery and burglary and assume they are the same thing. However, it's essential to understand from a legal standpoint that there is a substantial difference between robbery and burglary. Read on to learn what the differences are and why it matters to you.

burglary vs robbery

What Is Burglary?

According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program, burglary is defined as unlawful or forcible entry or attempted entry of a structure with the intent to commit a felony or theft." Burglary is a property crime, meaning that if someone breaks into an empty warehouse and steals or attempts to steal a bunch of TVs, that crime is classified as burglary.

Some characteristics of burglary are:

  • Illegally entering a property (building/home/business) that is not their own.

  • The intent to steal something or commit a felony while on the premises.

  • Forcible entry (meaning the criminal had to break in, they did not just walk through an unlocked door).

The penalties for burglary will vary depending on the circumstances. Some factors that affect the severity of the punishment include:

  • If the burglar was armed with a weapon or not.

  • The type of crime the burglar committed or attempted to commit while inside the building.

  • The type of building. 

  • If there were any people inside the building during the crime.

It's important to remember that the crime of burglary must involve the illegal entry into a building, and the criminal does not have to steal anything to be convicted of burglary.

What Is Robbery?

The FBI defines robbery as "taking or attempting to take anything of value from the care, custody, or control of a person or persons by force or threat of force or violence and/or by putting the victim in fear." For example, a thief who grabs a lady's purse in the street would be charged with robbery. Robbery is considered a crime against a person with violent intent. If the victim is threatened or feels scared, the perpetrator will be charged with robbery. 

Robbery always involves theft but does not necessarily involve any property such as a home, building, or business.

Some characteristics of a robbery are:

  • Taking or attempting to steal property from someone else. Even if the robber is unsuccessful, they may still be charged with robbery.

  • Stealing something of value to the other person (the item doesn't necessarily need to have significant monetary value). 

  • Property is stolen from the owner or while in someone else's care.

  • Something must be stolen/taken for the crime of robbery.

  • The robber uses force to scare or threaten the victim. If the victim is hurt, the crime becomes more serious.

Factors that alter the consequences of robbery are:

  • What was stolen (the value or importance).

  • If the victim was hurt.

The penalties for robbery are very steep. In almost all states, the offender will face serious prison time, huge fines, and sometimes other court-ordered punishments. For example, in Maine, someone convicted of robbery will face a $20,000 fine and ten years in prison. If the offender is armed, they will spend 30 years in prison and pay a $50,000 fine.

burglary vs robbery

What Is Theft, Larceny, and Extortion?

Other crimes closely associated with robbery and burglary are theft, larceny, and extortion. These, too, may be confused with other crimes. 

The crime of theft is when someone intentionally takes away, uses, transfers, or retains personal property from another person to deprive them of it. The taking is done without the victim's consent. For example, if a cousin steals your laptop while visiting over the holidays, that is considered theft. The owner of the missing property doesn't usually find out until the item is gone. Theft usually involves money but can extend to things as large as real estate holdings.

Larceny is very similar to theft. Depending on the jurisdiction, a thief may be charged with petty larceny (a misdemeanor) or grand larceny (a felony) if the amount taken is significant. 

Extortion, on the other hand, refers to a different type of crime. Extortion is when someone uses force or threats to intimidate the victim into paying them money or giving up something of value. Usually, the crime involves using threats of violence, exposing damaging personal information about the victim publicly if they don't pay up, or accusing the victim of a crime. The three components of extortion rely on threats, fear, and intent to extort something (money or property - something of value) from the victim. The penalties for extortion may include fines, restitution, jail or prison time, and probation.

What's The Difference Between Robbery and Burglary?

When thinking about burglary vs. robbery, there are a few differences. The most crucial difference between the two is that burglary is a property crime, whereas robbery is a violent crime against a person. 

Burglary always involves a building or piece of property, and robbery does not, nor does it require that the criminal steal anything. Robbery, however, does require that the offender steal something from another person. Robbery also involved fear or violence towards another person. With burglary, the perpetrator may never even see another person after breaking in.

What Should I Do If I've Been Charged with Stealing, Robbery, or Burglary?

Regardless of whether you have been charged with robbery vs. burglary, there are severe consequences for both crimes. Depending on the situation and severity, you may only be charged with a misdemeanor. If your crime is a felony, you will face serious prison time and fines.

The best thing you can do is find an excellent burglary/robbery attorney to help you fight your case. Because these are serious crimes, you will need all the help you can get to minimize your charges and sentencing.

Although movies and TV often portray theft, burglary, larceny, and robbery as the same things, there are very specific differences to these crimes, including intent, fear, violence, property, buildings, and weapons. In addition, the punishments for each may vary widely depending on where they occur and the specific circumstances.

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