The Differences Between Robbery and Burglary
When addressing the crimes of theft, robbery, and burglary, it is common to confuse them or lump them together. Most people believe any of these may be used interchangeably when discussing the unlawful taking of someone else’s property, but that is not the case. Although theft and robbery are very similar, burglary has some differentiation. You most likely have heard the term burglary and robbery used comparably in TV shows, movies, or books, and while both involve theft, there are many factors that differentiate these two crimes. Robbery is considered a violent crime, where someone takes something of value directly from someone else. Burglary is considered a property crime, involving entry into a residence or building illegally, without permission, with the intent to commit a crime. When understanding the difference between burglary and robbery, it is important to know when each crime occurs and the criteria each falls under.

When does burglary and robbery occur?
A burglary occurs when someone intentionally enters a place without the permission of the owner or person in lawful possession, with an intention to steal or commit a felony. According to FBI figures, the clearance rate is 12.9%, meaning the chance of solving the crime or property being returned is rather low. It is easier to investigate and potentially solve a burglary when something distinctive is stolen, whereas a number of burglaries that occur in a certain area would require further resources to solve these crimes.

Robbery occurs when someone takes property directly from the person or presence of the owner by either using force or by threatening the imminent use of force. These crimes typically have a 29.3% clearance rate, meaning they are easier to investigate and more likely to be solved than burglaries, especially in cases where a distinct item was taken.

When is a crime considered burglary?
A crime becomes burglary when all of the following is met:

  • Forcible entry occurs: Any action that takes place to gain entry into a building, other than walking through an open door, or climbing through an open window, such as when a burglar does not need to break a window, like if sliding a screen to the side and entering is enough.
  • Unlawful entry occurs: When a person enters a private building without express permission or taking action to gain entry to a building that is typically open to the public during the time period it is closed.
  • People or property could be inside the structure: This applies to any structure that is capable of housing people or property.
  • Actual entry or constructive entry occurs: A crime becomes a burglary as soon as a body part of the burglar or tool being used to gain entry is inside the structure.
  • Intent to commit a crime is proven: A burglar must enter with the intent to commit a crime to be considered burglary and the intent must be proven.
  • Any felony or theft occurs: Typically, there is an intended crime involved in a burglary. This crime is not limited to only theft; any felony that occurs is applicable.

When is a crime considered robbery?
A crime becomes robbery when all of the following is met:

  • Taking or attempting to take property: To be considered robbery, the crime does not have to be successful. As long as an action is performed to take someone’s property, it is considered robbery.
  • Property is taken from its owner or another’s care: The property does not need to be owned by the victim or in their possession during the time the robbery takes place.
  • Property must be taken from a person: A robbery is not committed unless something is actually taken from someone.
  • Taking anything of value including non-monetary value: If an item is stolen, it is considered robbery no matter the value.
  • The victim is hurt or scared: Implied threat or force of violence is enough. Victims do not need to suffer any injury for it to be considered a robbery.

The main difference between these two crimes is that robbery is usually an intent to intimidate or harm someone else and there is a weapon involved, whereas for burglary, the only intent is to steal something from a property. Most individuals, except those involved in a profession dealing with these crimes, do not fully understand why one is more serious than the other. For example, if someone waited until a jewelry store was closed, broke in through a window, and took a pair of earrings, that would be burglary. If a person came into the jewelry store and demanded the employee give them the pair of earrings, that would be considered robbery. A burglary could become more complicated if the owner discovers the burglar and there is an attack, but typically there is no violence involved. Robbery on the other hand, normally has at least one other criminal activity attached to it. Robbery is considered a more violent crime and carries a harsher sentence than burglary does.


Practice Areas