What is the Difference Between Robbery and Burglary?

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  • Written By: Christina Edwards
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 09 February 2020
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Robbery and burglary are often confused with each other. Although both of these crimes are associated with theft, burglary does not always involve stolen property or the intent to steal anything. An individual committing robbery steals something from someone by using force or intimidation. Burglary involves breaking into a building with the intent to commit a crime. Because of the difference between robbery and burglary, a person can be charged with both crimes for one incident.

In the United States, robbery is often considered to be a felony, and it can result in serving time in a state or federal prison. Robbery involves taking something valuable and using force, or the threat of force, to do so. Armed robbery involves the use of a weapon. The similar, but more serious, offense of aggravated robbery generally involves the use of a deadly weapon.

Burglary is also known as breaking and entering. It occurs when a person gains unauthorized access into a home, business, or other structure to commit a crime. The crime that he means to commit is not always theft. Also, the amount of force needed to get into the building does not have to be extraordinary to constitute burglary, and it can even consist of picking a lot or simply walking in.


One major difference between robbery and burglary is that robbery always involves theft, while burglary does not. The crime that a burglar commits can be anything, including assault, rape, murder, or vandalism. Acts of violence are also a major difference between these two types of crimes. During a robbery there is usually some sort of violence, force, or just threats. Violence is not always an element of a burglary.

Another difference between robbery and burglary is the presence of the victim during the crime. During a robbery, there must be a victim present. In the case of a burglary, however, the victim is not always in the vicinity.

Robbery and burglary also should not be confused with theft. Theft is the crime of taking another person's property without his consent, whether that person is there or not. Though robbery is a crime of theft, the owner of the stolen property is always there. During a burglary, theft does not always occur.

If a person breaks into a building with the intent to steal some sort of property, he has just committed burglary. After he steals something, he has committed both burglary and theft. If the criminal is interrupted during the crime and he threatens the person with a gun, he can then be charged with all three crimes of burglary, theft, and robbery.


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Post 3

So I guess robbery charges are much more serious than burglary charges. Someone can commit burglary without harming or threatening anyone.

Robbery is dangerous because there is force and intimidation. I think that an armed robbery can even result in homicide if there is a struggle even though that was not the intention of the robber.

Post 2

@ankara-- I think the reason that most of us associate burglary with theft and robbery is because different states define these legal terms differently. There are states that define burglary as unauthorized access to a building to with the intention of theft or another felony. Different states can also have differing sub-categories for robbery and burglary and the article mentioned some of those.

So it's a good idea to check the definitions and the burglary laws of the state you're in.

Post 1

I also thought that a burglary charge meant breaking into a home and stealing something. I had no idea that theft is not involved in burglary. But I think that most people have this misconception, I'm not the only one. I wonder why or how this common misconception happened in the first place?

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