What’s the Difference Between Robbery, Burglary, and Theft?

September 21, 2021

What’s the Difference Between Robbery, Burglary, and Theft?

Robbery, burglary, and theft may look similar on the surface, but in the eyes of the law in Pennsylvania, they are distinctly different. Specifically, what actually counts as robbery, burglary, and theft are different, and so the punishments for each of them are different as well. Confusion may come from the fact that they are each technically defined as “theft crimes,” but theft crimes and “theft” are not legally the same thing in Pennsylvania.

What is Robbery?

Robbery is a theft crime where the perpetrator takes or threatens to take something from someone else by force. The threat of violence alone is enough to label a theft crime as a robbery. The threat of violence also would also make some instances of robbery violent crimes as well.

Importantly, a person does not have to be armed to be charged with robbery. Having a weapon or convincing the victim that one has a weapon, will raise the crime to armed robbery, which isn’t a different theft crime.

What is Burglary?

Burglary is a theft crime specifically where someone unlawfully enters another’s property with the intent to steal. The burglar does not need to successfully steal something to be charged with burglary, rather than with attempted burglary.

This theft crime cannot happen in public because it differentiates itself based on entering someone’s property. This means that breaking into a car does not count as burglary, which is actually a different crime. Breaking into a room someone has rented does count as burglary, however, as it can be considered your temporary property.

What is Theft?

Also referred to as larceny to avoid confusion in terminology, theft involves taking property without the consent of the owner. This one crime, if found guilty, has varying punishments based on the value of the stolen item(s).

How Are Theft Crimes Different?

They each have specific criteria that make them independent crimes. Robberies include the use of threat of force; burglary requires breaking into someone’s domicile; theft requires that someone steal something. A person can technically commit all three crimes at once, or only one based on each of their criteria.

For example:

  • When someone breaks into a house and tries to unsuccessfully steal from the homeowner who’s there, threatening them with force, this is a robbery and burglary, but not theft.
  • If someone steals someone’s purse on the street by physically taking it from them, this is theft and possibly a robbery, but not a burglary.
  • Should someone steal a wallet or item left unattended, this is only a theft, not a burglary or a robbery.

Choose Mazzoni Karam Petorak & Valvano To Represent You

These are subtle distinctions, but knowing and understanding them can be the difference between jail time and heavy fines. They do not have the same punishments because of their differences. You don’t want to risk going up against a prosecutor willing and able to be overzealous in their charges.

Mazzoni Karam Petorak & Valvano has years of experience investigating all types of serious criminal cases. We can use that experience to defend you, so contact our Scranton law firm as soon as possible.

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