While burglary and robbery are often used interchangeably in everyday conversation, they are actually two completely distinct crimes from a legal perspective. In fact, burglary isn’t always even a form of theft crime whereas robbery always involves theft, but also the use of fear or force. Here’s what defense attorney Peter M. Liss believes you should know when it comes to the difference between burglary and robbery.
The Difference Between Burglary and Robbery
Under California law, robbery involves taking another person’s property through the use of fear or force, but burglary involves entering a property with the intent to commit a felony act or petty theft. Although burglaries often involve theft, the crime can include any felony including property damage or assault. Additionally, a burglary or petty theft may become a robbery if the person involved uses force in an attempt to escape while being pursued.
It is important to note that burglary does not always involve forced entry to a property. Additionally, while the suspect must have had the intention to commit another crime, the other offense does not need to have actually occurred for the person to be charged with burglary.
Penalties for These Charges
Depending on the circumstances of the crime, a burglary may be charged as a felony or misdemeanor. Most felony burglaries are punishable by up to three years in prison. Residential burglaries count as a strike and are punishable by up to six years in prison. If someone is present at the home, it can even be considered a “hot prowl” and be charged as a violent felony. In many cases, felony charges can be negotiated down to misdemeanor offenses with the help of a skilled attorney.
On the other hand, robbery also counts as a strike and is always a felony and is punishable by up to six years in prison. If the robbery took place in a structure inhabited by more than two people, you could also face up to nine more years in prison. If someone was seriously injured during the robbery, you can also face an additional six years in prison. If a gun was used, you could face an additional ten, twenty or even a lifetime term in prison under California’s 10-20-Life law. It’s worth noting that you will face charges for each victim was present to be threatened, so if you used a gun to rob the purse of a woman on a date, you would face two charges even if you only took an item from one victim.
Fighting Burglary and Robbery Charges
There are many strong defenses to both of these charges, including wrongful accusations, illegal police search and seizure and more. In burglary cases where trespassing is the only crime that occurred before the suspect was arrested, it is often difficult for the prosecution to prove that the intruder actually intended to commit a felony or theft. If a car burglary involved a vehicle and the door was left unlocked, then the charge will be changed to grand or petty theft as it cannot be considered burglary.
Because both robbery and burglary are both such serious charges and the laws defining them can be so complex, it is critical anyone facing these accusations does not attempt to defend themselves without a lawyer present.
If you have been charged with either robbery or burglary, or still have questions about the difference between the two, please call The Law Offices of Peter M. Liss at (760) 643-4050 to schedule your free initial consultation.
Creative Commons Image by Tim Samoff