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What is the Difference Between Theft, Robbery, and Burglary?

What is the Difference Between Theft, Robbery, and Burglary?

You might think that theft, robbery, and burglary are the same. In reality, these terms refer to three criminal offenses with different penalties. These offenses are generally “property crimes,” but only share a few similarities.

California’s Theft Law

Also called “larceny” or “petty theft,” theft happens when a person intentionally takes another individual’s property with the intention of stealing it. California statutes differentiate between two forms of theft: petty theft and grand theft.

Generally speaking, grand theft is theft of property worth more than $950.

Penalties for theft vary. In most cases, theft is punishable by a $1,000 fine and six months in jail. If the stolen property is worth less than $50, this fine may be reduced to $250, depending on the defendant’s prior criminal history.

Robbery vs. Theft

Much like theft, robbery occurs when a person steals someone else’s property; however, robbery involves an additional factor: force. By definition, robbery is a more serious offense than theft because it involves the use of intimidation or physical force to take the victim’s property. Additionally, the defendant must take the property from the victim’s immediate person or presence.

In California, there are two types of robbery:

  • First degree
  • Second degree

First degree robbery occurs in a building, residence, or dwelling. Second degree robbery, on the other hand, is any form of robbery that doesn’t meet the qualifications for a first degree crime and is punishable by two, three, or five years in prison.

Understanding Burglary Laws in California

Unlike robbery and theft, a person can commit burglary without actually taking someone else’s belongings. Burglary typically involves theft, but the two crimes are not always linked. In order to commit burglary, a person must unlawfully enter a structure with the intent to commit a crime.

By law, the defendant doesn’t actually have to commit a crime; he /she only must enter the building unlawfully and with the intention of committing a crime.


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