Criminal Law

What’s the Difference Between Robbery and Burglary?

By Jessica Gillespie, Legal Researcher and Editor
Robbery involves both theft and force, while burglary doesn’t have to.

People sometimes use “robbery” and “burglary” interchangeably, but the words don’t mean the same thing. The confusion might come from the fact that both crimes make people think of theft.

Robbery involves taking something of value from a person through force or intimidation; burglary is when someone illegally enters a building with the intent to commit a crime inside. Both are serious offenses that carry the possibility of long prison sentences and hefty fines.

The definition of the crime varies somewhat throughout the country, but robbery typically has the following elements:

  • taking money or property
  • directly from another person
  • without consent
  • with the intent to keep it permanently
  • by force or the threat of force.

As with robbery, states define burglary slightly differently. In general, though, the crime is:

  • entering a building
  • without authorization
  • while intending to commit a felony or theft while inside (in some states, the intent to commit any crime is enough).

Although punishments vary by state, both robbery and burglary are usually felonies. The crimes typically have different degrees, depending on factors such as whether a weapon was involved or someone was injured.

For information about the laws and penalties that apply in your state, consult an experienced criminal defense attorney.

Go to the main crime definitions FAQ page.

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