What's the Difference Between Robbery & Burglary?

Did you know that robberies and burglaries are not the same? Many people think they are, but they're actually two different crimes with varied penalties.

What's the Difference Between Robbery and Burglary?

Even though people use the terms interchangeably, there are significant differences between the crimes of robbery and burglary. If you commit a crime, you will want to know that your charges match the crime, because burglary and robbery have penalties that vary from one another.

The crime of robbery is committed when you take something of value from someone else. Some of the elements of this kind of crime include:

  • Taking property or money from another person
  • Taking that property or money without permission
  • Using force or intimidation with the intent of getting the property or money
  • Having the intent to commit a crime by keeping the property permanently without permission

This is not the same as burglary for a few reasons. Primarily, it is because burglaries don't actually involve having other people present during the crime. This type of crime requires you to:

  • Illegally enter a building, home or other property
  • Be on the property with the intent to break the law by stealing something or committing a felony while inside

Many people think that you have to forcibly enter a property to be accused of burglary, but today's outlook on criminal law is different. Burglary statutes are wider-reaching and now the state that you commit burglary if you, without permission, enter any kind of building or home with the intent to commit a crime inside. This can happen at any time of the day. 

How Does a Personal Injury Change a Robbery or Burglary Offense? 

If someone gets hurt during a burglary or robbery, then you may be at risk of facing enhanced penalties. There are crimes called aggravated offenses, which are usually heightened with steep penalties due to others being hurt or killed during a theft. For example, in Hawaii, someone who commits a robbery in a residence and harms someone may be fined up to $25,000 and go to prison for up to 10 years. 

These kinds of harsh penalties are why it's smart to get legal advice from an attorney if you have been accused of robbery or burglary offenses. Both can lead to harsh penalties for you regardless of which state you're in. 

How Do Force and Fear Play a Role in the Charges Placed?

Force and fear make a difference in robberies and burglaries. For example, with a burglary conviction, you don't normally have to interact with anyone. Force isn't necessary for a burglary charge, so if you just walk into an open door and go onto someone else's property, that could be enough to build a case against you.

Robberies are not the same. Robbery requires a use of force, and at the very least, intimidation, to commit a crime against a person. In fact, to be convicted for robbery, the prosecution has to show that you used violence or the threat of violence against another person in order to steal from them. For example, if you were to rob a bank at gunpoint, then you would be using force (and intimidation) to steal money. That's robbery. 

How Do Detectives Recognize Staged Burglaries? 

Detectives can often tell the difference between staged and honest burglaries, but not in all cases. They usually determine if the burglary really happened during the crime scene investigation.

Usually, in staged situations, the witnesses or individuals talking to the police about what happened will not have the same story. The time of a robbery or burglary may be different from what the police know to be true, for example.

Someone might claim there was a weapon that no one else seems to know about, or there may be obvious signs that the lock on a door was broken from the inside, not the outside. 

Usually, staged burglaries and robberies are obvious, because people who are faking the scene know too much. When people are stressed and in high-risk situations, it's normal for them to have poor recollections of the events that happened. Many people would hide or be unclear about what just happened to them. 

If multiple witnesses seem to agree with absolute clarity, then it's more likely that the scene was staged and everyone worked together to “get their story straight” before calling the police on the defendant. 

What Are the Penalties for Robberies or Burglaries? 

The penalties for robberies and burglaries are different in each state. After you contact a criminal defense attorney, they will talk to you about the case and determine if it involves a robbery or burglary based on their understanding of your story, the police report and any information gathered from other sources. 

If the offense involves a robbery, then you can expect the penalties to be harsher to begin with. This is because a robbery involves a direct threat or fear of threat to another person. With burglaries, no one has to be present, so they're generally punished less severely.

However, enhanced penalties are possible if someone was hurt or killed during either a robbery or burglary, which is something to keep in mind. Armed robberies or burglaries are also penalized more harshly than those where the defendant was allegedly unarmed. 

Do You Need a Defense If You're Accused of Committing a Robbery or Burglary?

Absolutely, you always need a criminal defense any time you're facing charges of any type (and especially if you've already been charged). You should know that there are defenses against allegations of robbing a property or entering a property without permission. You deserve an opportunity to defend yourself and to make sure that you are being treated fairly by the law and justice system. Whether you're accused of entering a stranger's vehicle when you really just thought you saw a friend stopped in nearby traffic or you're accused of robbing a liquor store down the street from your home, you have a right to defend yourself against those claims.

If you are innocent, your criminal defense attorney will work on your behalf to get the charges dropped, so you can get back to your life. If you are guilty but had a good reason for your actions, such as believing you had permission to enter an acquaintance's home, then your attorney will help you build a case around that information. Even if the allegations are completely true, your attorney will help by making sure all parts of the legal process are followed to a “T.” Any mistakes made by the police or prosecution could help you get the charges dropped or changed, so the penalties you face can be minimized. 

Our blog has more information about criminal defense and why it's important to have a strong defense when you face charges. A little help goes a long way in criminal cases. 


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