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Differences between theft, burglary and robbery charges

On Behalf of | May 30, 2024 | Criminal Defense

When a stealing accusation occurs, understanding the specific allegation is important. Theft, burglary and robbery charges may seem the same, but they are different.

Each has a distinct legal meaning and consequence.


Theft, also known as larceny, involves taking someone else’s property without permission and intending to keep it. The key element of theft is the intention to permanently deprive the owner of their property.

Theft can range from shoplifting a small item to stealing a car. The severity of the charge depends largely on the value of the stolen property.


Burglary involves entering a building or structure with the intention of committing a crime inside, usually theft. The key element of burglary is the unlawful entry. It does not need to be a completed crime for it to be considered burglary.

For example, if someone breaks into a house intending to steal but leaves without taking anything, it is still considered burglary. Burglary can occur in homes, businesses or other structures.


Robbery involves taking property from someone by using force or threats. The key element of robbery is the use of force or intimidation. Unlike theft, which can occur without the owner’s knowledge, robbery directly involves the victim.

An example of robbery is a mugging, where the robber demands money from the victim while threatening them. Robbery is considered more serious than theft because it involves a threat to the victim’s safety.


The consequences for theft, burglary and robbery vary based on the severity of the crime and the laws in the jurisdiction. Generally, robbery carries the harshest penalties due to the use of force or threats.

Burglary can result in severe penalties, especially if it involves a residence or an injury to someone. Theft penalties depend on the value of the stolen property and any prior criminal record.

Understanding these differences can aid in navigating the legal process and making strategic decisions to resolve your situation efficiently.