Understanding the Differences Between Robbery and Burglary

January 28, 2020

Understanding the Differences Between Robbery and Burglary

While there are only subtle distinctions between theft, robbery, and burglary, the penalties for each crime can be dramatically different. For many, understanding the differences between robbery and burglary causes the most confusion. 

So what is the difference between robbery and burglary?


Robbery is the form of theft that involves taking someone else’s property by force. By law, robbery is a violent crime, even if no physical harm occurs, as intent must be present. 

The elements of the crime of robbery are:

  • Taking money or property
  • directly from someone
  • without permission
  • with the intent to keep the property permanently
  • through the use of force or intimidation.

In Pennsylvania, robbery is categorized as a third-degree felony, meaning you can serve up 7 years in prison. If the victim is harmed, it is a second-degree felony, punishable by 10 years in prison. If those injuries are severe, the robbery becomes classified as a first-degree felony, punishable up to 20 years in prison. 

If someone is killed during a robbery, second-degree murder charges may also be filed. 


You can be charged with a burglary without having to steal something from another person. Entering another person’s property unlawfully with the intent to steal is enough to be charged with the crime. 

The elements of the crime of burglary are:

  • illegally entering
  • a building–typically a home or business
  • with the intent to steal something or commit a felony while inside.

In Pennsylvania, a burglary offense can result in a sentence of 20 years in prison. Sometimes, burglary is classified as a second-degree felony specifically when no one was present when the burglar entered the building. In those cases, the felony can result in 10 years in prison. 

Burglary is different from robbery because force or use of intimidation is not an element of the crime.

Crime Statistics in Pennsylvania – Robbery and Burglary

According to AreaVibes, the annual reported crimes in Pennsylvania per 100,000 people were 76.9 robberies and 211.6 burglaries. In Scranton, that number grows to 79.7 robberies and 436.9 burglaries.

In a 2016 report by World Population Review, robbery was the next type of violent crime to take place most often in the United States. 

Contact Us

Don’t take on your criminal defense case alone. Whatever crime you have been charged with, make sure you contact our law firm as soon as possible. A delay in contacting us may hurt your case. Mazzoni Karam Petorak & Valvano can help you decide how to proceed. With 58 years of experience and some of the most experienced criminal lawyers in Lackawanna County, our firm will work for you to fight for the best possible outcome. Schedule a free case evaluation and contact us by calling (570) 348-0776. If this is your first offense, there may be ways to prevent you from having a criminal record.

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