The Differences Between Theft, Robbery, and Burglary

By Brock Benjamin
Founding Attorney

Facing criminal charges of any kind is an incredibly daunting experience, made worse when the terminology used is unfamiliar and unclear. In normal conversation, people use the terms theft, robbery, and burglary interchangeably to refer to stealing something broadly. However, under Texas, New Mexico, and federal law, they each have a distinct definition and a distinct defense strategy. They each refer to a different crime, though all under the umbrella of property crime, and they each have different elements and penalties. It’s important to understand the distinction between these crimes in order to effectively present the strongest possible defense, made stronger with the assistance of an experienced El Paso criminal defense attorney.

What is Theft?

Theft refers to a broad variety of situations where one person unlawfully appropriates another person’s property with the intent of permanently depriving the lawful owner of their property. Essentially, theft as a charge refers to stealing with the intent of never returning the property. This includes situations where an individual takes someone else’s belongings without consent or exercises control over property that is not their own and that they did not have permission to use.

Just as the criminal charge of theft encompasses a broad range of actions, so do the penalties. The penalties generally reflect the value of the property that was stolen. The penalties for theft range from a petty misdemeanor for property of little monetary value to a felony for property worth tens of thousands of dollars. These penalties can also be enhanced depending on the unique circumstances surrounding the offense and the offender’s criminal record.

What is Robbery?

Robbery, in essence, is taking theft one step further, interacting negatively with the victim. It involves the use of force or the threat or force during the commission of a theft. Robbery is considered a more serious crime than theft because of the potential for harm or injury to the victim. Both Texas and New Mexico require demonstrating that force, threats, or intimidation were used to facilitate the theft, elevating it to a robbery.

Just as robbery is a more serious form of theft, the penalties for robbery are more severe than they are for theft, and can lead to significant prison sentences, with the potential for decades behind bars in extreme circumstances. 

What is Burglary?

Burglary, contrary to popular notion, doesn’t actually involve stealing anything. Burglary refers to the unlawful entry into a structure with the intent of committing a crime. The crime that the offender intended to commit could be theft or robbery, or something entirely unrelated. Unlike robbery, burglary doesn’t necessarily require any interaction or confrontation with the victim, and the structure doesn’t necessarily need to be a home, store, or restaurant. 

Burglary penalties are generally correlated with the type of structure that was entered, and are more severe in crimes involving a weapon. It is possible to be charged with burglary and robbery, or burglary and theft, but theft and robbery cannot be charged simultaneously as robbery already implies the theft, just adding another aspect.

El Paso Criminal Defense Attorney

If you or a loved one are facing criminal charges in Texas or New Mexico, it’s paramount that you act quickly and secure representation from a skilled and seasoned criminal defense attorney. Prosecutors show little mercy, so you need an advocate who will aggressively fight for you, your rights, your freedom, and your future. 

Based in El Paso but proudly serving clients across Texas and New Mexico, the Benjamin Law Firm offers a comprehensive criminal defense practice lead by name partner Brock Benjamin, who is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. What sets the Benjamin Law Firm apart is our true subject matter expertise. Attorney Benjamin was once a prosecutor, so not only is he an expert in criminal defense, but he also has insider knowledge into how the prosecutors work and what strategies and tactics they use. Attorney Benjamin uses that insider knowledge to mount especially effective defenses for his clients. 

Contact us today so we can get started fighting for you. The sooner you reach out, the better your chances at reaching the best possible outcome. También podemos ayudarte en español.

About the Author
Brock Benjamin is board-certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.  His practice is primarily state and federal criminal law and appeals.Brock 

Posted in: Criminal Defense