In conversation, many people use the terms theft, robbery and burglary to refer to some form of stealing. However, in the eyes of the law, and specifically the eyes of a judge considering charges, these are all very different terms with important distinctions among them.
If you recently received property crime charges, your next several steps are very important to building a defense. It is wise to understand the legal differences between these crimes so that you can effectively defend against the charges and protect your future freedom.
Often, the wisest course of action is to consult with an attorney who can help you understand the potential penalties of your specific charges and develop a personalized defense strategy based on the facts of your case.
Burglary does not require taking property
Burglary is probably the most often misunderstood category of property crimes. A burglary occurs if a person unlawfully enters a structure of some kind while intending to commit a crime (which may or may not involve stealing anything).
Furthermore, a person can commit burglary even if they do not cause any property damage or enter through somewhere not intended as an entrance. Those actions, often constitute “breaking and entering,” but a burglary may still occur if a person enters into a business or home through an unlocked door or other common entrance.
With burglary, the key components are being somewhere you should not be, legally speaking, while intending to commit a crime. Whether an additional crime takes place is not always relevant to the charges.
Theft and robbery
Theft and robbery are very similar, but distinct charges. Both theft and robbery involve taking another person’s property without authorization to do so, but the difference lies in how this happens.
For theft to occur, a person must only take or attempt to take another person’s property, while robbery entails that one party takes another party’s property through the use of violence or the threat of violence or some other form of fear-based coercion.
For instance, if a person walked into a book store and stole several books by carrying them out without paying for them, this is probably theft. On the other hand, if a person enters a book store, takes several books, and then threatens to strike the cashier if he or she tries to stop them, that is probably robbery.
No matter what kind of property charges you received, you may have more options than you think. Each of these charges presents unique opportunities to build a strong defense. Don’t hesitate to get the help you need to protect your rights and your future.