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Lock Blog

A resource for consumers, locksmiths, and security professionals

What’s The Difference Between Robbery And Burglary?

by Taylor March 20, 2023

Being the victim of a crime is awful. When someone steals something from you, you’ll likely focus on regaining it ASAP and restoring your sense of safety. You need to make a record of everything that happened as soon as you can for a better chance of catching the perpetrator.

However, to understand the solution, you need to understand crime. So you must know the difference between burglary vs robbery. Burglary and robbery are entirely different offenses (although someone can commit both simultaneously). And even theft and larceny can represent separate charges depending on the jurisdiction. Using these terms interchangeably is incorrect.

That said, the exact differences between these crimes differ from state to state. Understanding burglary vs robbery means knowing how lawmakers define things in your area.

DISCLAIMER: The following information is not a substitute for advice from a legal professional.

Here’s a general overview of the difference between burglary vs robbery:


What’s the difference between robbery and burglary?

The difference between robbery and burglary is quite significant. In short, robbery is a violent crime, while burglary is a property crime. But burglary vs robbery isn’t only about degrees.

Robbery is theft through violence or threat of violence. Grabbing a candy bar at a convenience store when no one is looking isn’t robbery; holding a gun to the convenience store clerk until they give you that candy bar is.

Burglary is unlawfully entering (or staying in) a structure while intending to commit a theft or felony. Burglary doesn’t have to involve theft – breaking into a building to commit another felony, like arson, is still burglary. But the key word is intent – if the burglar doesn’t commit a crime, but a court can prove intent, then it’s burglary. That’s the difference between burglary vs robbery.

What is the difference between theft and robbery?

Robbery is a type of theft. Theft involves stealing something belonging to another person – a thief can steal a bike or cable service or commit embezzlement. Robbery, on the other hand, is theft involving violence or the threat of violence. It’s a robbery when the victim fears for their safety during the theft.

What is more serious: robbery or burglary?

A charge being burglary vs robbery makes quite a difference. In most states, robbery is always a felony, while burglary can be a misdemeanor. Burglary is only a property crime, while robbery is a violent crime, so robbery is much more severe.


When it comes to burglary vs robbery, unlike robbery, burglary is not a crime committed against a person – it’s a crime committed against property.

In short, burglary is entering or staying in a structure without permission, intending to commit a felony or theft. The word “intending” is crucial – if the court can prove intent, it doesn’t matter if the perpetrator actually did something – it’s still burglary. That’s a big difference between burglary vs robbery.

Attempted forcible entry is also a type of burglary. Once someone tries to break into your home, they’ve committed a crime, even if they fail.

“Structure” can be defined as a house, apartment, barn, trailer, occupied houseboat, office, railroad car, stable, or ship.

There are different degrees of burglary. In California and many other states, first-degree burglary is when a burglar breaks into a home. In Texas, burglary of a residence with theft is a second-degree felony, and any other crime committed ramps it up to a first-degree.

Arizona defines first-degree burglary as armed and in a dwelling, second-degree burglary as unarmed residential burglaries, and third-degree as everything else. Missouri has similar laws, ramping up the type of felony if someone is injured. Indiana even has five levels of burglary.

Burglary isn’t always a felony, depending on the state (although first-degree burglary usually is). The type of building and number of current occupants can help determine the seriousness of a burglary. But a large number of burglary charges are only misdemeanors. That’s another big difference between burglary vs robbery.


When it comes to burglary vs robbery, robbery is a much more serious crime. While burglary is a property crime, robbery is a violent crime committed against people.

Specifically, robbery is theft with the presence of a threat. This security threat can be actual violence or the implication of violence, such as brandishing a weapon. It also involves taking action to take something from someone, even if that action fails. As you can imagine, robbery usually involves at least one other crime.

Robbery also comes in different degrees. In Washington, first-degree occurs if the perpetrator is armed, injures someone, or robs a bank. In California, it’s first-degree if it’s after the victim uses an ATM or if they’re in an inhabited structure or vehicle.

The penalty for robbery is generally worse if they use a weapon, and “armed robbery” can even be a separate charge. In fact, in Texas, regular robbery’s only a second-degree felony, while aggravated robbery is first-degree. Missouri has similar laws. In most jurisdictions, robbery is always a felony. That’s one of the differences between burglary vs robbery.


Unlike robbery and burglary, theft is pretty straightforward.

Theft is simply taking something that doesn’t belong to you without the intention of returning it, such as stealing money or stealing mail. Like burglary, it’s a property crime.

Whether or not that “something” stolen must be a physical object depends on the jurisdiction. Sometimes theft can involve stealing a service, like stealing cable. Fraud and embezzlement are types of theft. Sometimes it specifically does not refer to land and real estate.

Petty and grand theft are separate charges depending on the dollar value of what gets stolen. The cap for value varies depending on the jurisdiction. In some states, it’s as low as $500. While in others, it’s as high as $3000. Petty theft is often a misdemeanor, while grand theft is a felony.


While burglary, robbery, and theft can differ depending on the state, they’re still generally defined similarly. On the other hand, larceny can vary wildly from state to state.

Larceny might just be another term for theft where you are. It often is. Sometimes it can represent specific types of theft, however. In some states, larceny is specifically the theft of a physical object – so fraud and service theft are not larceny.

There’s a difference between petty larceny and grand larceny. In California, you’ve committed grand larceny if you’ve stolen a car, firearm, animal, or certain agricultural items.

The Differences Between Them

As you’ve probably figured out, there’s a significant overlap between these four terms. Someone can even commit all four at the same time. But burglary vs robbery is technically entirely different.

In simple terms: if a perpetrator takes something that doesn’t belong to them, that’s theft. If it’s specifically an item, that’s likely larceny as well. If they had to break into a place to take the object, that’s burglary. And if they had to threaten someone in-person to take it, that’s robbery.

Theft can range from minor to severe, burglary is generally serious, and robbery is always profoundly serious. A charge changing from burglary to robbery is an elevation, so understanding burglary vs robbery is crucial.

Only about 12.9% of burglaries are solved, while 29.3% of robberies are solved. The fact that robbery always includes a witness helps increase the chances of solving the crime.

What You Can Do To Prevent Them

You may not have to worry about those dismal crime statistics. Things can still happen, but there are steps you can take to reduce the odds of robbery or burglary and keep yourself safe.

First, there are many security measures to put up around your home that may reduce burglary risk. Cameras, sensors, and alarms can help. Even just getting a dog can deter some burglars.

As for robbery, never travel alone if you can avoid it. Always be alert and try to stay in well-lit areas with numerous people. Don’t advertise any expensive items you may have – take off watches and jewelry. And try to dress as inconspicuous as possible. Be sure to theft-proof your bags as well.

Don’t try to stop or fight the criminal if you get robbed. Do what they say to avoid injury and protect yourself. And if you’re in your home during a burglary, get out of there as soon as possible. Most burglars are not armed, but it’s better not to risk it. If you come home and find a burglary has happened, do not enter your home, as the burglar may still be inside.

Robberies are much more dangerous, but fortunately, they’re also far less common than burglaries. In 2018, there were 1,230,149 burglaries across the United States, with only 282,061 robberies. As a whole, you’re way more likely to experience burglary vs robbery.


When you’re the victim of a crime, it can be helpful to understand what crime has been committed. And it’s useful to know what you can do to prevent these devastating crimes from happening to you in the first place. Whether trying to stop burglary or robbery, you usually have options.

But in the end, burglary and robbery are very different crimes with different ways to protect yourself from them. Stay safe, know the risks for both, and keep yourself protected now that you know the difference between burglary vs robbery.

Category: Crime, Safety & Security

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