Is There a Difference Between Theft, Robbery, and Burglary?
- Author Eric Davis
- Published June 25, 2021
- Word count 476
Most people use the words theft, burglary, and robbery interchangeably. While this is fine for casual conversation, there are significant distinctions between each of these offenses in the context of criminal law. If one of your loved ones has been arrested for stealing, it's important to understand exactly what the charges involved.
The Philadelphia Police Department (PPD) publishes Philadelphia crime statistics every year. According to the PPD's 2014 crime stats report, there were 15,999 cases of theft, 6,924 cases of robbery, and 9,567 cases of burglary. Of course, it isn't just law enforcement that makes a distinction between these offenses - so does state law.
Robbery, which is the least common of these three crimes in Philadelphia, is defined by 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 3701. This statute describes robbery as theft (which we'll cover shortly) plus one of the following elements:
In short, a robbery is a theft that specifically involves some sort of force, assault, or intimidation. An additional statute (18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 3702) is devoted solely to the robbery of a motor vehicle, sometimes called carjacking.
Depending on the circumstances, robbery can be graded as a third, second, or first-degree felony. The maximum criminal penalties for each class of felony offense are listed below:
Burglary, which is defined by 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 3502, specifically involves entering a building or other piece of property "with the intent to commit a crime therein." State law allows defendants who are charged with burglary to raise three defenses:
Theft, which is the most common of among these offenses by a wide margin, is sometimes called larceny. For instance, you may have heard the terms "grand larceny" (grand theft) or "petit larceny" (petty theft).
Unlike burglary and robbery, which are highly specific in nature, theft is a very broad charge which encompasses numerous offenses. Some of these offenses are common (like shoplifting), while others are so obscure they're virtually unknown. Examples of Pennsylvania theft crimes are listed below:
Unlawful use of computers used to be a theft offense, but the relevant statute was repealed in 2002.
As you can see from the above list, theft covers a very wide range of both tangible and intangible objects. Theft might involve stealing a physical item (like a purse or a bike), a service or utility (like cable or internet), or simply valuable information (like another person's identity, or a company's trade secrets).
Depending on the nature of the alleged offense involved, theft grading runs the gamut from third-degree misdemeanor to first-degree felony. Thus, a defendant who is convicted of theft might be facing anywhere from one to 20 years in prison, and/or fines ranging from $2,000 to $25,000. It depends on the type and dollar value of the property involved, among other factors. For instance, theft is automatically a second-degree felony if the property stolen is a firearm, or if the value of the stolen commodity is at least $100,000 but less than $500,000.
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