A Look at What Makes Theft, Robbery, and Burglary Different Crimes

A thief, a robber, and a burglar walk into a courtroom…no, it’s not the start of a bad joke, but rather the start of a question: are these individuals being charged with what is essentially the same crime?

Most people assume that theft, robbery, and burglary are fairly similar crimes, all involving stealing something from someone else. In fact, these three crimes all have very specific principles behind them that differentiate which is which—one of which does not involve “stealing” at all. What are these unique requirements?

  • Theft: Taking another person’s property without permission, and with no intentions of returning the property
  • Robbery: Taking another person’s property from their control without permission and with no intent to return it by use of force, violence, or the threat of violence
  • Burglary: Illegally entering a structure by force with the intent to commit a crime.

As you can see, theft and robbery are similar, but in order for a crime to be considered a robbery, something must be taken using violence or the threat of violence. Burglary, on the other hand, may not involve taking something at all—it focuses primarily on entry and intent.

Testing Your Theft, Robbery, and Burglary Knowledge

Here’s an example crime, see if you can decide what the charges would be:

  • Your neighbor leaves for work, and forgets to lock her front door. A few hours later, an armed man walks into her house through the front door, takes a very valuable painting and leaves, closing the door gently behind him.

Let’s examine this scenario. The man has taken a valuable piece of artwork belonging to your neighbor, with no intent to return it—that is a fairly straightforward theft charge. We then must look at the fact that the man was armed, and consider if that makes this a robbery. Had your neighbor been home, it can be assumed that the man would have threatened her with the gun, which would be considered a robbery; since she was not home, however, she was not deprived of property by use of force. Therefore, the man is only facing theft charges so far.

Now we must consider burglary. The man entered your neighbor’s home without permission, presumably with the intent to steal the valuable painting—this is a pretty solid argument for burglary so far. There is still the issue of force, however. Since the man entered your neighbor’s house through an unlocked door, he did not use force in the traditional sense. By opening the door without your neighbor’s express permission, though, it could be considered entry via force. This makes a compelling case for a burglary charge along with the theft charge, but robbery charges would not be brought.

Are You Facing Theft, Robbery, or Burglary Charges in Arizona?

If you are facing theft, robbery, or burglary charges in Arizona, you have a right to ensure that these charges are accurate. Our Phoenix criminal defense attorneys are standing by to discuss your case with you in a free consultation—simply call our office or fill out our online contact form to be connected with us today.

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