It is common for people to mistakenly use the terms “robbery” and “burglary” interchangeably. However, from a legal point of view, they are two very different types of crime. Though associated with theft, neither robbery nor burglary necessarily involves unlawfully taking someone else’s property or possessions.
Perhaps the most important difference between robbery and burglary is that robbery is a violent crime, while burglary is a crime against property. Authorities tend to devote more resources to the investigation of a robbery than a burglary. This makes the distinction between the two significant for those potentially facing charges.
Robbery involves an unlawful attempt to force someone else to relinquish money or possessions. A person can face robbery charges even if the attempt was unsuccessful. The legal consequences of robbery may be greater if the victim comes to harm or the item(s) taken had significant monetary value. However, law enforcement can still bring robbery charges against an individual if the victim experienced fear because of the threat of possible violence or if the possession(s) taken had sentimental value to the victim.
A burglary takes place when someone enters someone else’s property with the intent of committing a crime. Theft is only one of the crimes that could result in burglary charges. For example, if the intent was to commit vandalism or assault, the law would still consider the unlawful entry onto the property to be a burglary. It does not matter whether the intended crime was a misdemeanor or a felony. It also makes no difference whether the intended crime was successfully completed.
For a burglary to take place, the entry onto the property has to be unlawful. It is not necessary to forcibly enter the building. Walking through an open door without the owner’s permission and with the intent of committing a crime still constitutes burglary. It is also not necessary to enter the property completely to commit burglary. A burglary still takes place if only part of the body, or a tool used for breaking and entering, crosses the threshold.