Robbery v. Burglary: Do You know the Difference?

Houses cannot be robbed


Many people confuse the terms robbery and burglary. I see the misuse of those two terms everywhere, including in books written by some of my favorite authors. I also hear the terms interchanged on TV and radio news. They are not the same, not even close.

Robbery occurs when a crook uses physical force, threat, or intimidation to steal someone’s property. If the robber uses a weapon the crime becomes armed robbery, or aggravated robbery, depending on local law. There is always a victim present during a robbery.

For example, you are walking down the street and a guy brandishes a handgun and demands your money. That’s robbery.

Burglary is an unlawful entry into any building with the intent to commit a crime. Normally, there is no one inside the building when a burglary occurs. No physical breaking and entering is required to commit a burglary. A simple trespass through an open door or window, and the theft of an item or items, is all that’s necessary to meet the requirements to be charged with burglary.

For example, you are out for the night and someone breaks into your home and steals your television. That’s a burglary. Even if you are at home asleep in your bed when the same crime occurs, it’s a burglary because you weren’t actually threatened by anyone.

The Bulletin Board

– The town of Millersburg, Pa. fired their chief of police to save money. Three full-time officers will remain on the job. However, funds for all part-time positions have been cut. The town will now rely heavily on the assistance of state police officers to help out during emergencies and calls for assistance from town officers.

– New laws in six states require people who have been convicted of DUI to install breath-monitoring/ignition blocking devices in their cars.

– Police in Columbus, Ohio received over 400 shots fired calls in one hour on New Years Eve. Officers actually engaged in a shootout with party-goers, wounding several people.

– I hope 2009 is a wonderful year for everyone. We sure need it…

8 replies
  1. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    SZ – No, they’re both felonies and could result in long prison sentences. In fact, robberies are violent crimes.

    Crimes such as urinating in public and loitering are petty crimes.

  2. Terry
    Terry says:

    My heroine was robbed in the first book, but there was a burglary in the second, while she was having dinner with the hero. I got to have her say:

    “No, I don’t. There was a burglary,” she said, feeling a ridiculous burst of pride in knowing the difference between that and a robbery. What did they care?”

  3. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    Terry – I’m glad today’s post excited you. 🙂

    This topic is one that’s a pet peeve of many officers. An actual robbery brings out the cavalry with the big guns. In the case of a B&E all that’s needed is one or two officers with some fingerprinting equipment and a notepad. Big difference. However, many people call in those B&Es as robberies and that can result in a huge waste of manpower and resources.

  4. Terry
    Terry says:

    Oooh Ooooh. A post I actually knew the answer to! Learned it while writing my first book (and in the sequel, actually had the opportunity for a character to mention it!)

  5. Falcocop
    Falcocop says:

    Hi Lee,

    Yes there is often confusion here as well. We have slightly different wording here but basically it the same thing.

    On a sperate note are you still having email problems. I have sent you an email about three times now but I have a felling they are not getting through to you.


    Coroners Officer, England.

    ‘I see dead people’

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