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What’s the difference between burglary, robbery or theft?

On Behalf of | Nov 9, 2022 | Criminal Defense, Criminal Law |

Those who take valuable property without the owner’s consent can result in criminal charges. Prosecutors will likely choose between burglary, robbery or theft charges. They all involve stealing property, but they are distinct criminal offenses with different levels of punishment if there is a conviction. Determining the charge or charges and their severity will largely rest upon the details of the case.

There are three degrees of burglary

Burglary typically conjures images of someone breaking into a home or business to steal objects or money. However, the charge also covers people entering the property and committing acts of vandalism, arson or assault. The three degrees are:

  • First-degree: This class 3 felony involves illegally entering the property and assaulting or menacing an occupant (typically using a gun ensures this charge).
  • Second-degree: This class 4 felony involves illegally entering a property and remaining there intending to commit a crime.
  • Third-degree: This class 5 felony involves illegally entering a property and breaking into safes, cash registers, vending machines and other equipment.

Charges of robbery

Robbery generally involves taking someone else’s property without their permission. The robber uses force, threats or intimidation. There are two types of charges: simple and aggravated. Aggravated robbery involves the use (or threat) of a deadly weapon. The weapon need not be in plain sight as long as the person refers to it. While simple robbery is a class 4 felony, aggravated robbery is a class 3 felony.

Theft charges

A wide range of theft charges can be either felonies or misdemeanors. The law bases the severity on the value of the stolen object. It involves knowingly intending to take something of value without returning it. It can also include using, abandoning or concealing an object of value or returning the object of value and demanding payment for the unpaid-for thing.

The details matter

The prosecution will likely attempt to paint the most severe scenario, so it is essential for defendants to work with an attorney who can provide details that fill in a more accurate picture of the situation. While they may not be able to get the charges dismissed, they can also argue for a less severe sentence by providing context for the judge and prosecution to consider.