Robbery vs. Burglary: What’s the Difference Between the Two?

Your property is under attack. More than 2,100 property crimes per 100,000 people occurred in the United States in 2019. That’s roughly five times the rate of violent crimes.

When people experience a property crime, they usually describe it as a robbery. Yet that isn’t always the case. The law makes clear distinctions between different property crimes, and you need to understand those distinctions.

What is robbery, and what is burglary? Is theft related to robbery or burglary in any way? What are the differences between robbery vs. burglary?

Answer these questions and you can deal with property crimes in the right way. Here is your quick guide.


Robbery occurs when someone takes a person’s property against their will. A robber may use force in order to take the property, shoving the victim or pointing a weapon at them. They may also threaten violence without actually harming the person.

Most states have degrees of robbery, distinguishing between different acts. Robbery in the first degree may involve the use of a weapon, such as a gun. Robbery in the second degree may involve no weapon at all, but a person may feel threatened for their life.

In most states, robbery is a felony offense that leads to imprisonment. The more property that a robber steals, the higher the criminal penalties. If the robber harmed someone, they may face assault charges that carry their own legal penalties.

Some states distinguish between robbery and theft. Someone who steals a few dollars from someone may receive a theft charge, while someone who steals a car gets a robbery charge.

Someone who steals non-physical objects may commit theft as well. A person who steals someone’s identity or intellectual property can receive a theft charge instead of a robbery charge.

A criminal defense lawyer can distinguish between different kinds of robbery charges. Anyone accused of robbery should hire a lawyer or a theft crime attorney and learn more about their charges.


A burglary occurs when someone enters a building without the owner’s knowledge or consent. They may walk in through the front door, or they may sneak in through a window. They go inside so they can commit a crime, including robbery.

As with robbery, many states attach degrees to burglary charges. Someone who enters a building in order to hurt someone else faces stiffer penalties than someone who just broke in.

Many people confuse robbery with burglary because a robber may commit burglary in order to steal something. But a robbery can happen on the street without breaking into a building. Someone may commit burglary to commit another crime or to keep themselves warm on a cold night.

Robbery vs. Burglary

Robbery vs. burglary can be a difficult distinction to make. Someone who has their property stolen from them at gunpoint experiences robbery. If the victim did not lose a lot of property, the robbery may get a theft charge instead.

Someone who breaks into someone else’s house commits burglary. Burglary is only about breaking into private property. Someone does not have to steal something to commit burglary, and someone does not have to commit burglary to rob someone.

You can avoid charges if you know about all types of crimes. Read more criminal justice guides by following our coverage.


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