The Differences Between Burglary, Robbery, and Theft

The best criminal defense is based in a knowledge-first approach. Ignorance isn’t a valid defense in just about any criminal case, so if you know the law before you even potentially commit a crime you’ll be better equipped to avoid committing any crimes in the first place. So, in the name of educating our clients, we want to provide some clarity on three different crimes people often use interchangeably: burglary, robbery, and theft. While all three crimes involve the taking of someone else’s property, they are actually different crimes that carry different penalties.

So, let’s break down the charges individually.

Burglary

A burglary takes place when you unlawfully enter someone’s property with the intent to commit a crime. Breaking and entering is a form of burglary and often used in place of the term burglary. The most common application of burglary pertains to breaking into someone’s home to steal possessions or money.

In Alabama, burglary charges carry the following penalties:

  • First Degree (Class A Felony): 10 to 99 years in prison, fines up to $60,000
  • Second Degree (Class B Felony): 2 to 20 years in prison, fines up to $30,000
  • Third Degree (Class C Felony): 1 to 10 years in prison, fines up to $15,000

First Degree involves any injuries to an innocent person within the property or possession of and/or threatening use of a deadly weapon. Second Degree involves the most basic form of burglary in which you break into a property with the intent to steal. Third Degree involves breaking into a home with no evidence of aggravation (meaning no weapons were used, nobody was inside the property, and no threats were made).

Robbery

Robbery differs from burglary in that it does not involve entering a property. A robbery occurs when you accost an individual by means of physical force or threats to take their property and leave with it. This also applies to situations where you are caught and subsequently attack or threaten someone as a means to escape.

In Alabama, robbery charges carry the following penalties:

  • First Degree (Class A Felony): 20 years to life in prison, fines up to $60,000
  • Second Degree (Class B Felony): 2 to 20 years in prison, fines up to $30,000
  • Third Degree (Class C Felony): 1 year and a day to 10 years in prison, fines up to $15,000

First Degree is often referred to as “Armed Robbery” when a deadly weapon is used, but you can also be charged with First-Degree Robbery when you cause serious injuries to a victim even without using a deadly weapon. Second Degree is applied when you and others work together to use force or threaten to use force against a victim without causing serious harm and no deadly weapons are used. Third Degree is similar to Second Degree but is commonly applied to cases where the alleged offender worked alone.

Theft

Theft is the most simple of the three and involves taking someone’s property without their permission without breaking into their property or harming them. Because there is no physical victim or breaking and entering circumstances to consider, the charges are determined based on the value of the items or services stolen.

In Alabama, theft charges carry the following penalties:

  • First Degree (Class B Felony): 2 to 20 years in prison, fines up to $30,000
  • Second Degree (Class C Felony): 1 year and a day to 10 years in prison, fines up to $15,000
  • Third Degree (Class D Felony): 1 year and a day to 5 years in prison, fines up to $7,500
  • Fourth Degree (Class A Misdemeanor): Up to 1 year in prison, fines up to $6,000

First Degree is theft of property worth more than $2,500 or the theft of any vehicle. Second Degree is theft of property worth between $1,500 and $2,500 or the theft of any firearms, controlled substances, and livestock. Third Degree is theft of property worth more than $500 and less than $1,500 or the theft of a credit or debit card. Fourth Degree is theft of any property worth $500 or less (not including the previously named specific property types).

It’s important to know the law so you don’t break the law, but we understand people may make mistakes or be wrongfully accused of making mistakes. Attorney John M. Totten wants to stand by your side and protect your freedom. Contact our firm today and get your case started.