The Differences Between Robbery and Burglary

In today’s common vernacular, robbery and burglary are often used synonymously. However, these two words are not interchangeable and under United States Law, despite both being types of property crimes and a form of theft, they do mean completely different things. While each state has their own definition of robbery and theft, typically the differentiation between the two comes from the circumstances of the theft.


Robbery is usually defined by the theft of property or money if the criminal uses physical force and/or fear against the victim. When the criminal uses objects such as a gun and the victim suffer additional injury, the criminal charge might be elevated to aggravated robbery. The crime of robbery requires the presence of a victim. To prove the crime of robbery, it must be shown that the criminal had the intent of stealing the personal property of another against their will by violence, intimidation or threat of force.

Since the use of force is the core element in robbery cases, it is important to establish when the violence occurred. If the violence occurred while the criminal was trying to escape, then the charges might not be robbery but something similar to larceny or resisting arrest. Also, intimidation can be subjective. In most states, robbery is a 2nd-degree felony.

Most of the time robbery is a state crime unless it occurs in the federal jurisdiction such as a bank, credit union or other loan institution, or any robbery that occurs interstate.


Burglary is defined by the unlawful entry into a property with the intent to commit a crime (not just theft). This is slightly different than trespassing where it’s unlawful entry but no intent to commit a crime. Unlike robbery, no victim has to be present. Burglary crimes are not about prevention of theft but rather prevention of disturbing the sanctity of a person’s home and to protect against possible violence.

To prove burglary, it must be shown that the criminal had unauthorized entry into a building or unauthorized structure with the intent to commit a crime inside. The crime has to exist outside of the entering itself. If there is no crime then it is not a burglary. Also when the intent to commit a crime occurred will determine if it is a 1st or 2nd-degree felony.

If you have been accused of a theft crime then it is wise to contact a defense attorney Odessa. They will help you navigate the complex legal system in your state.