When someone is alleged to have stolen or attempted to steal something, the charge is often described as either burglary, robbery, theft, or some combination of the three. You might ask whether there is any real difference among the charges, and whether those differences affect the classification (severity) or the potential sentence the defendant faces. The answer to both questions is a resounding yes!
The offenses are defined as follows:
- Theft. Theft consists, very simply, of taking (controlling) the property of another, obtaining services through misrepresentation, shoplifting, embezzlement, and other forms of what is commonly referred to as “stealing.” With certain exceptions, the classification and potential penalty for theft is usually a function of the value of the property taken. It can run from a misdemeanor to a serious felony.
- Robbery. Robbery is taking the property of another while that person is in your immediate presence, against the person’s will, using force or threats of force. Robbery is always a felony.
- Burglary. You don’t have to steal anything in order to be charged with burglary. It involves entering property with the intent to commit either theft or any felony. There are three degrees of burglary. While all burglaries are felonies, the level depends upon the circumstances. Third degree burglary (a class 4 felony) involves entering or remaining in a non-residential structure or yard (or a motor vehicle) with the intent to commit theft or any felony. Second degree burglary (a class 3 felony) applies to residential structures. And first degree burglary is any burglary where the defendant (or an accomplice) knowingly possesses a deadly weapon or a dangerous instrument. First degree burglary is a class 2 felony if the structure is residential, otherwise it is a class 3 felony.
Clearly, it makes a huge difference whether your charge is one for theft, robbery or burglary. The penalties are different, without a doubt. But the offenses themselves, and the proof required for a conviction, are also very different. In sum, while these charges overlap to a certain degree, the consequences differ substantially.
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Phoenix, AZ 85004